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11-01-10, 11:55 AM
CBP Takes First Guardian UAS

Jan 8, 2010

By Guy Norris
Gray Butte, Calif.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials hope operational drug-interdiction tests of a prototype surveillance version of the Predator B unmanned aerial system (UAS) will spur acquisition of several more for maritime missions.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has begun air vehicle and system tests of the Guardian UAS at Point Mugu NAS, Calif., following its delivery to the service’s Gray Butte facility on Dec. 7. The Homeland Security Dept.’s CBP, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, will use the Predator B variant to evaluate its suitability for reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting acquisition in coastal waters, where drug smuggling is rife.

The modified aircraft—distinguished from other Predators by a large belly-mounted Raytheon APS-134 SeaVue surveillance radar and prominent wingtip-mounted UHF/VHF radio antennas—will ultimately be deployed to the drug-source and transit zones to support joint counter-narcotics missions against drug-running “go-fast boats” and semi-submersible craft.

USAF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Michael Kostelnik, CBP Office of Air and Marine assistant commissioner, says the Guardian development was accelerated to combat what he describes as “a tremendous explosion” of sophisticated drug-smuggling vessels. As well as the self-propelled semi-submersibles, he says the main targets include the “go-fast boats,” which can each carry 10-12 tons of narcotics.

Based on experience gained with operations of the CBP’s land-based Predator Bs “and given our responsibilities on the border, and the flow of narcotics, it made sense that we should explore a maritime version of the land-based version,” he says. The system will “go through a brief but intense operational evaluation, and then we expect to deploy it into mission areas early in the spring. When we put this one-of-a-kind asset to the test, we expect to see some good results,” he adds.

“The contractor will undertake initial aircraft performance testing and will illuminate the radar to make sure everything is working at Point Mugu,” says Douglas Koupash, CBP Office of Air and Marine mission support executive director. Following these trials, the UAS will be transferred to Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., where it will begin its operational test and evaluation in early 2010.

Although OT&E is provisionally slated to last for three months or more, Koupash says it could go a lot quicker. “Depending on the weather, testing could take as little as six weeks because we’ve done a lot of it before.” Prior to vehicle development, the CBP worked with the Navy’s Sea Systems Command to develop the ocean surveillance initiative software, a key element of the vehicle’s control software.

The Homeland Security Dept. already has experience operating six Predator Bs for U.S. border patrol as well as in support of hurricane and flood response. The CBP first deployed the UAS in law enforcement operations on the U.S. southwest border in 2005 and along the northern border in 2009. The service operates three Predator Bs from Libby Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and two additional aircraft from Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

A second Guardian is due to be delivered to NAS Corpus Christi, Tex., around March, although the radar will not be fitted for several months because of high demand for the sensor, says Koupash. The APS-134 provides inverse synthetic aperture radar imaging surveillance, as well as SAR, weather detection and avoidance modes, small-target detection, long-range detection, moving-target indicator and search-and-rescue transponder modes. The same radar is used on the CBP’s Bombardier Dash 8 multirole patrol aircraft, as well as the Coast Guard’s Lockheed Martin P-3, and it has been designed to be interchangeable with the Guardian installation.

Given a trouble-free OT&E and early drug-busting results, Koupash believes acquisitions of additional Guardian systems could follow the initial deployment. The service has a strategic plan for up to 18 “Predator-type” vehicles, of which “at least six” will be for maritime missions, he adds.

A major focus for the Guardian effort was the rapid development of a low-drag radar pod, says Scott Dann, General Atomics aircraft systems group domestic programs manager. The pod, which can be adapted to take Selex and Elta surveillance radars, has a 40% lower drag coefficient than an earlier-generation housing, thanks to intense use of computational fluid dynamics design techniques. “Our aerodynamicist said, ‘Let’s start with the basic shape of a hockey puck and go from there,’” notes Dann.

“I think it’s a game-changer for the maritime environment. We have been very successful with our land-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, but two-thirds of the world is ocean,” he says. Ongoing work includes development of a *smaller ground control station, which will be deployable using Coast Guard C-130s or Air Force C-17s.

11-01-10, 12:18 PM
Australian Heron in Flight

(Source: Australian Department of Defense; issued Jan. 8, 2010)

The first Australian-leased Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has begun operations supporting Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Under Project Nankeen, the Defence Material Organisation has signed a contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd (MDA) to provide Heron Unmanned Aerial System services which will deliver high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability supporting ADF operations in Afghanistan.

The Heron UAS uses leading edge technology to boost force protection by providing ground commanders with ongoing, real time situational awareness.

The Heron’s long endurance characteristic enhances the ADF’s other operational ISR capabilities in Afghanistan, which currently include RAAF AP-3C Orions and Army’s Scan Eagle tactical UAV.

A small Royal Australian Air Force detachment has been preparing for the delivery of the Australian Heron, by working with the Canadian Heron detachment at Kandahar airfield, drawing on the Canadians’ operational knowledge, experience and facilities.


11-01-10, 09:39 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Urban's AirMule Shows it can Hover

Posted by Graham Warwick at 1/11/2010 9:26 AM CST

Isarel's Urban Aeronautics has completed initial testing of its AirMule VTOL cargo/medevac UAV, demonstrating autonomous hovers with the fly-by-wire system providing autostabilization.

Photo: Urban Aeronautics

Urban says the tethered hovers, about 2ft off the ground, showed the control system's ability to stabilize the vehicle in all three axes using inertial measurements augmented by GPS and two laser altimeters. The next phase of flight tests will be untethered and will include horizontal and vertical position stabilization.

The AirMule is powered by a 730shp Turbomeca Arriel I turboshaft driving fore and aft ducted rotors. Urban says the initial tests show the vane system used for roll and yaw control will, with planned improvements, allow the production vehicle to hover with high precision in winds gusting up to 50kt.

The Israeli Defence Force has indicated interest in the AirMule as a unmanned medevac vehicle with its ability to operate in urban environments because the rotors are safely shielded.

Concept: Urban Aeronautics

11-01-10, 09:43 PM
Madden NFL for Military’s Drone Video Analysts

By Nathan Hodge January 11, 2010 | 2:23 pm

For months, the U.S. military has been rushing to get more drones over Afghanistan. But as more Predators and Reapers prowl the skies, intelligence analysts are drowning in data. Air Force unmanned aircraft shot nearly three times as much video over Afghanistan and Iraq last year as they did in 2007. Exactly how much footage is that? If one analyst had to watch it all, it would take about 24 years, if watched continuously, Christopher Drew writes in today’s New York Times.

The amount of drone footage is poised to grow exponentially. In the next year, the Air Force will outfit 10 Reaper drones with “Gorgon Stare” sensors. It’s a package of high-powered cameras that can film an area, two-and-a-half miles around, from 12 different angles. Eventually, the military hopes to equip drones with
92-camera arrays.

Drew notes that the military is now experimenting with new techniques to make sense of drone video, like the telestrator. That tool, famously used by NFL color commentator John Madden for sketching out instant replays, could help warn troops of a threat or point to a potential target.

Lucius Stone, an executive at Harris Broadcast Communications, tells Drew that the raw data feeds are like football game without a scoreboard. “You don’t know what the score is,” he says. “You don’t know what the down is. It’s just raw video. And that’s how the guys in the military have been using it.”

In related news, Pakistan has renewed calls for America to call off the drone strikes over its territory. According to Reuters, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani expressed worries over the continuing drone attacks during a recent visit by a delegation of U.S. senators. Independent intelligence analysts are also questioning just how effective the unmanned attacks are. “I don’t think the [Pakistani Taliban] has necessarily been weakened at all,” said IntelCenter’s Ben Venzke. “In fact we’re seeing more large-scale bombings and attacks in Pakistan than we’ve ever seen and with a very large casualty count.”

[PHOTO: U.S. Department of Defense]

11-01-10, 09:48 PM
Japan Tests an Air-Launched Multi-Purpose Stealth UAV

Japans air force has tested last month the latest version of air-launched UAV, designated 'TACOM'. The drone was launched from a Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-15 and after a short autonomous flight landed at the Iwo-Jima air base in Southern Japan. TACOM is a unique, indigenously developed unmanned system is designed as a multi-purpose unmanned platform that can be tailored for a multitude of missions, including reconnaissance, assault, electronic warfare/decoy and air strike. TACOM weighs about 700 kg, measures 5.2 meters in length, 1.62 mw high and has a wing span of 2.5 meters. Powered by a single turbofan engine developing 1,100 lbs of thrust TACOM can cruise at transonic speed and reach an operational range of up to 1,000 km.

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Online Holdings International.

11-01-10, 09:51 PM
Airborne Communications Relay Could Become Primary Mission for Tactical UAVs

Traditionally, the communications relay was considered a secondary mission on a platform deployed on other missions, resulting in reduced performance and availability. However, with the introduction of lightweight, robust and autonomous platforms, capable of deployment from austere and unprepared sites, UAVs can now perform this mission, close to the forward units. Unlike the costly electro-optical sensor package, often exceeding the cost of the aerial platform itself, an airborne relay payload can be produced at a low cost, resulting in a reasonably priced mission platform, that can be operated by signals units of Army or Marine brigades. Such a capability could dramatically expand communications links, primarily over rugged, mountainous or urban terrain. Industry sources have indicated that such aerial radio relay UAV could evolve into an acquisition program addressing near-term operational requirements, to support U.S. Army operations in the Afghanistan. Industry has been addressing these requirements with early demonstrations of new platforms – ideally suited for forward deployment.

An airborne relay can effectively connect to units operating in mountainous area, where terrestrial radio communications are typically masked and screened by the terrain. The CRP operates in the UHF/VHF bands, supporting a variety of frequencies and waveforms, including Single-Channel Ground-Air Radio System (SINCGARS), extending the range between users for voice and data communications, including chat text, instant messaging and imagery.

Harris-supplied Falcon III radios have been operating in Shadow 200 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of an airborne relay system, extend the distance of terrestrial communication. The Shadow 200 carries two Falcon III single-channel SINCGARS combat net radio sets mounted in special fairings on the UAV's tail booms. The U.S. Army first deployed the Communication Relay Package-Light (CRP-L) in Iraq in mid-2007. Flying at a typical altitude of 14,000 ft. above sea level, the CRP-L system extended the range of tactical communications to around 170 km, far beyond the line-of-sight range of VHF or UHF radios. The Shadow is operated in a similar role supporting the Marine Amphibious Brigade in Helmand, Afghanistan.

Thales is also offering the Lightweight Multiband Airborne Radio, (LMAR) designed specifically for UAVs. This module packages two AN/PRC-148 JTRS Enhanced MBITR (JEM) type radios into an airborne-qualified Air Transport Radio (ATR)-style enclosure specifically targeted at airborne VHF/UHF communications/relay payload applications. LMAR has been designed for integration as part of the mission payload of aerostats, tactical UAV, High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) and Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP). Thales is also developing a dedicated version of the LMAR for the British Watchkeeper program. This module is designed to support dual independent radios or handle retransmission with crossbanding configuration. The LMAR has integrated co-site filtering reducing interference from other electromagnetic emissions on the platform. It also supports integrated IP/VoIP facilitating easy integration into airborne network topologies.

In July 2008, such JEM based relay was employed to provide connect users more than 300 miles apart, using their organic radios. This relay was integrated into the solar-powered Zephyr UAV, developed by QinetiQ and funded jointly by the U.K. Ministry of Defence and the U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. DoD). On that flight the solar-powered plane has set an unofficial world endurance record for a flight by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), as it stayed aloft, non-stop, for 82 hours and 37 minutes, exceeding the record set by the Global Hawk in 2001. The radio relay specially designed for this test consisted of a four-radio solution (AN/PRC-148 JEM) capable of providing two retransmission demonstration systems at less than five pounds including radios, retransmission cables, and antennas.A different aerial relay concept being explored by the U.S. is the Combat SkySat, a US Air Force Space Battlelab initiative that utilizes two Thales AN/PRC-148 radios supporting warfighters in a theater of war as well as emergency and first responders in disaster area.

More recently Boeing subsidiary InSitu has demonstrated the Integrator unmanned aerial system carrying and operating the communications relay payload (CRP) utilizing Harris Falcon III (AN/PRC-152) radios. Harris Corporation is one of InSitu’s team members for the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS)/Tier II competition. Earlier in 2009 Northrop Grumman has demonstrated this capability with the Bat flying wing UAV. The company is developing common ground control architecture for the Bat, a new launcher, air vehicle enhancements including a new engine and new mission payloads, among them the airborne relay module.

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Online Holdings International.

11-01-10, 09:58 PM
Northrop Grumman's MQ-8B Fire Scout Demonstrates Interoperability with the Army's One System Remote Video Terminal

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.; issued January 8, 2010)

SAN DIEGO --- A Northrop Grumman Corporation land-based MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Unmanned Aircraft System, designated P7, successfully demonstrated interoperability with the Army's One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., the week of November 23.

Fire Scout's OSRVT demonstration illustrates its readiness to support Brigade Combat Teams. Designed and produced by AAI Corporation, the OSRVT provides direct receipt of full-motion video and targeting metadata by capturing the Omni broadcast from UAS that are within a unit's area of operations. This demonstration is one in a series to prepare Fire Scout for participation in the upcoming Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Fort Benning, Ga., in January and February 2010. During AEWE, Fire Scout will perform many important Army UAS missions in support of the Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"Working with the OSRVT team, we were able to integrate the sensor downlink from the Fire Scout into the rugged manpack system for display to the user," said Mike Roberts, chief engineer for the Class IV UAV at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "This integration was accomplished quickly without making any changes to the Fire Scout's current datalink or air-to-ground interface."

"Fire Scout's vertical capability provides the Brigade Combat Team unprecedented situational awareness, precision targeting, communications relay and, as this mission illustrates, gets critical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) immediately to Soldiers on point through the OSRVT," said Al Nikolaus, program manager for Class IV UAV at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "Fire Scout's ability to operate at low ground speeds ensures it can maneuver with the force to provide high, perch and stare; RSTA support in urban and complex terrain."

The OSRVT video and data system enables warfighters to remotely downlink live surveillance images and critical geospatial data. AAI recently demonstrated the OSRVT situational awareness architecture as a manned/unmanned aircraft teaming tool.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.


12-01-10, 09:49 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Caught on Film: UCAS Taxi Test

Posted by Amy Butler at 1/12/2010 9:29 AM CST

Northrop Grumman officials have kept a low profile on their X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator since their customer, the U.S. Navy, announced a delay to first flight last year. It was slated for November but slipped to the first quarter of 2010. But, amateur photographer Jim Mumaw caught a glimpse of some progress toward that goal Dec. 29.

These photos of the first UCAS-D are in a rare jaunt from its hangar when the aircraft is undergoing a tow taxi test at the U.S. Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.. As of last week, the aircraft had not taxied under its own power. The company has completed a taxi readiness review with the U.S. Navy, according to a program official. A self-powered taxi test is slated for this month.
Despite the hiccup in scheduling, the all important sea trails are still expected in 2012, Navy officials say.

At the root of the delay were propulsion acoustic and engine-start sequencing issues that occurred late last year. Those have since been resolved, according to the program official.

12-01-10, 09:55 PM

Flight International

USAF invests to design new Tier II unmanned aircraft

By Stephen Trimble

The US Air Force plans to invest $18.5 million to develop a new, low-altitude unmanned air system called the Sand Dragon.

The Air Force Research Laboratory intends to award the development contract to AeroMech Engineering, which previously designed the Desert Hawk hand-launched UAS sold under licence by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works division.

The Sand Dragon is expected to be a Tier II-class UAS dedicated to the route surveillance mission, according to an AFRL notice posted on 8 January.

The aircraft is also described as "runway-independent" and able to carry a 20.4kg (45lb) payload, which could consume up to 500W of power. It also "must be capable of operation on heavy fuel with 24h of endurance", the document says.

In addition to developing the aircraft, the funding plan also includes deploying a full launch and recovery system and a ground control station.

Although the AFRL intends to award the contract to AeroMech without a competition, it is required to notify other potential bidders in case it receives a better offer.

The AFRL is pursuing the new air vehicle despite a plethora of existing candidates already on the market.

The US Navy and Marine Corps are still evaluating four bids submitted to claim their combined small tactical UAS/Tier II contract, which will replace leased Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle systems that are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The performance specifications for the Sand Dragon compare with the payload and endurance of systems such as the Boeing/Insitu

13-01-10, 03:05 PM
Unmanned Aircraft Changing Soldiers' Battlefield Perspective

(Source: U.S Army; issued January 12, 2010)

WASHINGTON --- Soldiers need the tactical advantages their unmanned aircraft systems provide to be integrated into their units, so they aren't forced to endure lengthy approval chains that can cost lives, according to UAS experts.

"Most of the living and dying is going on in squad, platoon and company level in this fight. So you have to give those Soldiers what they need, when they need it. And they need it all the time," said Glenn A. Rizzi, deputy director and senior technical advisor of the United States Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Rizzi spoke during the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Army Aviation Symposium and Exposition, Jan. 5-7 in Arlington, Va. He said approval chains for unmanned aerial vehicle support can be lengthy, taking time that tactical units on the ground and in the fight cannot afford.

"They don't have time, when they need UAS support, to ... carry it up to the Joint Force Air Component Commander, ask for a Predator, and then have it go through that decision loop and then have it repositioned," Rizzi said. "They need it there, and they need it there 24/7."

What Soldiers need, Rizzi said, is UAS support that is built into their combat units -- unmanned aerial systems owned by the Army, flown by the Army, to provide support to the Army's ground units -- who are actually in the fight -- when they need it.

"You need organic systems," he said.

Sgt. Michael Arons serves as an instructor with the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He served with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, with the Shadow platoon in Iraq from 2005-2006. He also served in Afghanistan in 2008. His experience there with a then non-weaponized MQ-1C Warrior illustrates the need for the Army to keep control of UAS aviation close to where the Soldiers are.

"We were flying down (main supply route) 1, Ohio, in Afghanistan, just doing a route scan, and we see three guys emplacing IEDs," Arons said. "Had we not been there, who would have know what could have happened -- an MRAP (could have) run by there and get blown up. People's lives are at stake."

Arons' team called in air support -- an F-15 Eagle dropped a bomb there -- but two of the three enemy escaped and Arons was able to follow them -- track them -- using the MQ-1C. "We followed those two guys," he said. "And we have two different lasers on our payload. We have a designator -- we illuminated the house these guys ran to."

Ultimately, Soldiers were able to enter that house and find what was there -- a large weapons cache.

"Had we not been there, all these weapons would have been used against U.S. forces -- against allied forces," Arons said.

Col. Christopher Carlile, director, United States Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence, said Army UASs have flown some 1 million combat hours during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Army is now training some 2,000 UAS operators, maintainers and instructor pilots a year. He said similar UAS success stories reported in the news, like that of Arons, are often the result of Army unmanned aviation.

"When you see an article that's written, that says X, Y and Z were executed by drones ... understand that you are more than likely, in upwards of 80 percent of those cases, dealing with Army UAS doing those," Carlile said.

The colonel said Army UAS aviation is changing the way the Army does business.

"The way that infantryman, up until now, found out what was on the back side of that building was when he had fire coming from it," Carlile said. Now, systems like the Raven give Soldiers the ability to see where they couldn't see before.

"They could take that and fly it and put it up above and see if there was an ambush on the other side of the street, in real time," he said. "This has truly revolutionized the way we fight warfare at the tactical level."

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Miller now serves with the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization, at Fort Rucker, Ala. He's deployed as an infantryman in Afghanistan, to Kosovo, and twice with unmanned aircraft systems in support of special operations forces.

Miller says he sees the need for organic Army UAS because it can save time for Soldiers and because UAS support can work round-the-clock, without tiring. In Afghanistan, for instance, Soldiers are placing ground sensors to cover areas where they can't patrol on foot -- because the landscape is larger than the number of boots-on-ground can support. Response time to a sensor hit can be shortened with a UAS.

"If I get a hit on the sensor, it's a lot for me to spin up an aircraft crew and get them to go out there and fly their Blackhawk or Chinook or Apache out there and see what's going on," Miller said. "But I've already got a UAS up -- some for 24 hours. A lot of stuff for us is what we call a swing of the camera. I can see about a 10 kilometer range in all areas. I don't have a perfect view at 10 kilometers, but I have enough that I can see what it is and start working my way over to that area of operations."

Providing quick UAS support to Soldiers, with both weaponized and un-weaponized systems, is critical, Carlile said, because organic UAS is about supporting the Soldier.

"Their whole intent is to support the guys they eat dinner with every night," Carlile said. "The ones they sleep in the same tactical assembly area with."

While UAS support can come from outside -- sometimes from the other side of the world -- having in-house, organic UAS support, flown by Soldiers actually involved in the fight, is best, said Rizzi.

"Through planning, through after action review, they know the commander's intent, they fly that ground every day," Rizzi said. "They understand the subtle intricacies of daily life, they know how the fight changes over time very subtly, and so they are most effective."

"You cannot have the same situational awareness 8,000 miles away," Carlile said. "It just does not exist."


13-01-10, 03:10 PM
France’s Harfang/ SIDM IUAV Program

12-Jan-2010 17:46 EST

EADS “Harfang”/ EAGLE/ SIDM UAV system (Système Intérimaire de Drone MALE) was developed in conjunction with Israel Aerospace Industries, based on the Heron 2/TP. It is serving as an interim solution for France’s Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV needs, and is currently active in Afghanistan, where it complements shorter range options like the Sperwer.

France has a number of advanced UAV programs in development, in collaboration with other European countries, at the medium, heavy, and UCAV levels. A 2009 test of the jet-powered Barracuda UAV demonstrator in Canada, ongoing progress on the multinational Talarion, and development of the nEUROn UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) underscores the seriousness of those efforts, but they are not realistic fielding options in the near term. Which is why France is increasing its SIDM order, in order to cover training and domestic security needs…

15-01-10, 12:56 AM
U.S. Army To Terminate Class IV UAV

Jan 14, 2010

By Bettina H. Chavanne

The U.S. Army canceled two more programs early this week — the Class IV UAV and the Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) robotic vehicle — as part of its trimming of the modernization plan formerly known as Future Combat Systems (FCS).

The service officially notified Congress that as part of the plan to re-evaluate certain technologies developed during the FCS program, it concluded the MULE “did not meet rapidly changing threats, nor meet the Army’s future mission needs” and that the Class IV UAV “is no longer required. The current force Shadow [UAV] can meet future Army requirements with product improvements.”

Both programs fell under former lead systems integrator Boeing’s purview, and the company was notified Jan. 11 of the cancellation. MULE was being developed by Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman manufactures what would have been the Class IV UAV, the rotary-wing Fire Scout, which is in production for the U.S. Navy.

Northrop Grumman has invested heavily in its own test program of Fire Scout in anticipation of a 2014 fielding of the aircraft to brigade combat teams. In October 2009, Northrop Grumman flew its corporate-owned Fire Scout, dubbed White Tail, under the command and control of a new company-developed Stanag 4586-compatible ground control station (GCS). Stanag 4586 is the NATO interoperability standard for unmanned aircraft.

The company flew the White Tail in late September at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., promoting the flights as having demonstrated the functionality of its own GCS.

15-01-10, 10:45 AM
Army to Air Force: We Won’t Give Up Our Surveillance Aircraft

February 2010

By Stew Magnuson

A second turf war over control of unmanned aerial vehicles is underway after sharp criticism from a senior Air Force general who said the Army is not efficiently deploying its fleet of medium-sized remotely piloted aircraft.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said in a statement the military needs a “joint approach” to employing UAVs that makes the most efficient use of the aircraft and promotes the “wisest use of tax dollars.”

However, one Army aviation official at a recent industry conference described the controversy as a “fight,” and said the service will oppose any efforts to put control of its aircraft in the hands of outsiders.

“It’s important we put up a good fight, in conferences on the Hill and everywhere we can,” said Lt. Col. James J. Cutting, chief of the unmanned aerial systems division at the Army headquarters aviation directorate.

Army medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft such as the Sky Warrior — and the soon to be deployed extended range/multi-purpose UAV — remain under control of brigade commanders and are operated in theater by pilots and controllers who are deployed with the troops they serve. Deptula, among other proposals, recommended that these assets be placed under the control of joint regional commands.

Two years ago, the services fought a public battle over who should control UAVs that fly over 3,500 feet. The Air Force argued that as the military’s main aviation branch, it should control what flies in the higher altitudes. The Army ultimately won the right to operate its aircraft.

Deptula told National Defense that this issue was not another turf battle because the Air Force was not seeking control of the UAVs.

Army aviation officers countered that the Air Force — when employing aircraft such as the Predator and Reaper — was not responsive to the needs of ground forces, and that operators have been known to fly the UAVs off in the middle of operations to perform other previously scheduled tasks. In short, Air Force operated surveillance aircraft cannot be counted on in the heat of battle, said officials at an Army Aviation Association of America conference.

They intended to fight any attempt to place control of their UAVs under anyone but brigade commanders. What they call the “organic” capabilities of the UAVs are crucial to the way they operate. Further, they gave several anecdotes to back up their contentions.

Having an “organic” capability with their UAVs means the operators train and fight with their Army brethren. They know the battlefield plans from the beginning and have no duties other than supporting soldiers on the ground with overhead surveillance and reconnaissance and Hellfire missiles that can be called in to stop enemies.

Col. Gregory Gonzalez, Army UAS project manager, told reporters that he was in a command-and-control center in Afghanistan last October when insurgents nearly overran an outpost in the Hindu Kush Mountains. Eight soldiers lost their lives in the battle.

“Because the Army has a tactic to have direct support of these brigades, they were able to dynamically task some of our Army unmanned aircraft systems to find the enemy that was attacking those in the combat outpost,” Gonzalez said.

The sensor payloads were used to find the assailants, then Army helicopters and Air Force aircraft were called in to take out the attackers’ positions.

“Had it not been for that ability to immediately task those [Army unmanned] aircraft, we could have seen a much different outcome. And many of the soldiers who did come off of that [command outpost] alive, may not have,” Gonzalez said.

A reporter asked if handing over the control of Army UAVs to joint commanders could potentially cost lives.

“Unequivocally yes,” said Col. Robert Sova, capability manager for unmanned aerial systems for the Army Training and Doctrine Command.

He was at an unspecified command-and control-center when an Air Force UAV stumbled upon an insurgent placing an improvised explosive device along a road. Normally, operators would want to follow a suspected terrorist after he has finished his work, so they could follow him to his home, or perhaps to a bomb-making factory. However, at the end of the aircraft’s allotted time, it broke away. Air Force UAV pilots have tasking orders, so their time flying in one area is sometimes limited.

“Even though it had eyes on a situation that could have been exploited and developed, it departed station because its time was done,” Sova said. Since the UAV was unarmed, there was no recourse other than letting the insurgent go about his work. Had that been an Army aircraft, it could have been directed to remain in the area, he said.

“Could [the tasking order] have been changed? Yes it could have been, but somebody made the determination that there was a need for that [UAV] to break station and go to a different target area,” Sova said.

Another of Deptula’s criticisms is that Army UAV operators train with their brigades. When a brigade returns to its home base for dwell time, the UAVs return with them. That is not an efficient use of U.S. aircraft, Deptula maintained. Meanwhile, the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan has a chronic shortage of the aircraft, and the Air Force has endured criticism from Defense Secretary Robert Gates for not fielding Predators and Reapers quickly enough.

Sova likened the Army UAV doctrine to quarterbacks in the National Football League. A team wouldn’t bring in on a Sunday a substitute quarterback who hasn’t practiced with the team. He can’t just show up to play and expect to know the system. It’s the same with an Air Force UAV arriving in the midst of a battle.

“You don’t want a UAV showing up where the pilot knows nothing of the mission,” Sova said.

“Even if you do get another aircraft from another service, it may get a higher priority mission that you have no control over, and you can lose your support,” Sova said.

Trust between Army units and the UAV operators is important, he added. “They work together, and they know each other’s playbook.”

As for the aircraft returning to the states with their units for training, Gonzalez suggested that there might be some wiggle room. Contractors could potentially take their place, he said. UAV platoons could also stay on to support other divisions. However, “you start to wear down your soldiers pretty quickly if you do that,” he added.

Deptula said the remote-split operation doctrine that the Air Force currently employs is the most efficient way to deploy the aircraft.

In this type of operation, UAV pilots and sensor operators are not in theater, but at Air Force bases in the United States. According to Deptula, 132 UAVs supporting four Army divisions can perform 34 aerial patrol missions if they fly in remote split operations, but only 12 patrols under the organic concept favored by the Army.

In June 2008, the Air Force funded a joint Army-Air Force demonstration to show how the Army’s Shadow UAV could be flown remotely from the United States. In the experiment, a Shadow was launched from China Lake, Calif., and was controlled from Fort Belvoir, Va., which is 2,500 miles nautical miles away. The Air Force concluded that the Army could increase the capability of the Shadow fleet by 300 percent under a remote split operations concept.

However, Army aviation officials said the exercise only demonstrated the shortcomings of remote-split operations.

“There were a lot of technical glitches with a Shadow system,” Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army UAS said. And “we lost a lot of synergy.”

Cutting admitted that the office of the secretary of defense has asked him why the Army can’t deploy more of its remotely piloted assets in theater.

“We will not bend on split ops,” he insisted. It is a question of efficiency versus effectiveness. “We will place these capabilities at the lowest possible echelons that it makes sense.”

The way the Air Force responds to requests for its unmanned aircraft is another issue, Cutting said. A brigade commander has a four-day planning cycle, but he doesn’t know if an Air Force Predator will be available until 12 to 18 hours before the mission. The Shadow platoon under his command is the only UAV asset he can count on.

He has to take into consideration that an Air Force Predator may not be available at all. If he does find out late in the planning cycle that one is available, then it is placed on secondary targets. The Air Force has excellent crews and aircraft, but in these cases, they are relegated to a backup role, Cutting said.

“It means that the most capable aircraft is given a secondary target,” he added. Also, the Air Force has a harder time receiving approval to shoot their Hellfire missiles, he said.

Cutting said the Army needs to firmly state its positions on UAV operations.

“We try to represent the Army’s position as best we can. But there’s always the possibility that the boss calls us and says, ‘I understand. Now here’s my decision. Drive on,’” he said.

“To date, I think we have been very successful in showing our case to civilian leadership,” he added.

Still, Cutting acknowledged that the Army may not win this turf war. “It won’t be the first time the Army doesn’t get its way,” he said.

15-01-10, 10:47 AM
Teaching Non-Pilots to Fly Predators Requires More Cockpit Hours in Manned Aircraft

February 2010

By Grace V. Jean

The Air Force last fall graduated its first class of Predator pilots from an experimental program aimed at training non-aviators how to fly remotely-operated aircraft.

With the eight graduates either flying combat missions or training for operations at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., officials are making changes to the program to ensure that future beta test pilots are earning their drone wings with sufficient flying time inside the cockpits of traditional aircraft.

“They need more airmanship,” said Col. Luther “Trey” Turner III, chief of the operational training division at Air Force headquarters.

Officials long have argued that flying the aircraft requires piloting experience and skills that must be gained and honed in the skies.

“It’s a very demanding job to be a Predator pilot or sensor operator,” said Turner, a former commander of the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron that flies the MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper at Creech. “In some cases, you’re laying down fires in close proximity to friendly forces. You integrate with unmanned aircraft. There are a lot of things that you need to know how to do. We need to make sure we’re arming our airmen with the tools to be able to do that.”

A shortage of experienced pilots available to convert to Predator and Reaper operators caused the service to look elsewhere in its ranks to fill the gap. The beta test program was created to help the service meet the growing demand for remotely piloted systems in the war effort.

With the exception of Air Force Academy cadets, all of the service’s pilot candidates proceed through a course called initial flight screening at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Colorado. It is typically 18 hours long for traditional students who then go on to specialized undergraduate pilot training assignments to fly more manned aircraft. By the time they reach their formal combat units, they will have accrued several hundred flying hours.

The beta test program pilots also go through initial flight screening but do not gain more flight hours in manned aircraft before progressing to Predator-specific training courses and simulations. Officials have concluded that more flight time is necessary to hone these pilots’ flying skills before they begin to operate Predators from control stations on the ground.

Future beta test pilots will acquire 35 hours of manned flying training instead of only 18 hours, said Turner. With the increase, students will receive two solo cross-country flights in addition to more flight time in the air.

“The goal is to take the students to the equivalent training level of a private pilot,” he said. Officials are striving to give the pilot candidates 27 hours of flight time in the air with instructors, 11 hours of solo flight time and five hours in simulation.

“We are working to find a school to do this once the chief of staff of the Air Force gives the green light on normal production,” said Turner. In the meantime, subsequent beta classes will continue with the initial flight screening program at Pueblo, where contractors provide the training. If Air Force officials cannot implement the desired syllabus because of contractual issues, then they will put beta students through both the pilot and combat systems officer syllabuses at Pueblo to increase their flying training, Turner added.

After completing initial flight screening, beta students head to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where they undergo instrument training and take an unmanned aircraft systems fundamentals course.

The instrument simulator is a T-6 system with flight characteristics based on the A-10 Warthog. “It’s what was available,” said Turner. Officials have added more T-6 systems to the instruction program, including two emergency procedures simulators that will test pilots in stressful time-critical skills. They also have initiated the acquisition process to attain a different instrument simulator that meets Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

Officials said that the service needs the new systems in place by fiscal year 2011 because they anticipate exceeding Randolph’s T-6 simulation training capacity in 2012. The sims must be movable in case the training course moves to another base in the future, they added.

The 21-day unmanned aircraft systems fundamentals course teaches the basics of UAS operations through academic classes and simulators. Sensor operators join the pilots during this phase, where they are taught crew resource management skills.

Computer trainers introduce students to the ground station controls for the MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper. Last month, officials were expecting the arrival of a preliminary version of a new desktop simulator called the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment, or PRIME. The first operational version is expected to be delivered in August.

When Predator pilots arrive at Creech, quite a bit of their advanced training is done in simulators, officials said. But improvements to the simulators are necessary if more training is to be pushed into the virtual world.

“I think they’ve maxed out what we can do in the simulator at Creech for now,” said Turner. Officials are in search of a high-fidelity simulator that more closely replicates the challenges of maintaining a quality picture with the Predator’s multispectral targeting system sensor ball.

“If we get a higher fidelity simulator for the Predator, maybe we would end up putting more in the sim,” said Turner. “I think it has a lot of potential. We just need to make sure we’re doing it right.”

In December, the beta test program’s second class was on its way to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for the joint fire power course, which all Predator operators take regardless of their flying and combat experience.

Officials had scheduled to begin training the third beta class last month to be followed with a fourth next month and a fifth one in May.

“We will continue to tweak our training between the classes, and over time the production through-put will pick up even more,” said Turner.

The beta course feeds into the Air Force’s Predator training pipeline, which continues to draw airmen from across the entire force, said Turner. The formal training unit is expected to produce 280 MQ-1 pilots and sensor operators and 120 MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators during fiscal 2011.

19-01-10, 12:09 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalRafael quits Israel's congested UAV market

By Arie Egozi

Rafael has abandoned its efforts to become an unmanned air vehicle manufacturer and will not invest in new platforms.

The Israeli company has for the past several years tried to develop an advanced tactical UAV, with its efforts based on the Skylite-B system offered to meet the Israeli defence forces' battalion-level surveillance needs. Elbit Systems' Skylark I LE mini-UAV was selected for the requirement.

Rafael vice-president marketing Lova Drori confirms that a decision has been made to abandon the UAV market. "We don't have an advantage in UAV platforms, and we will not develop new ones," he says.

The company has, however, signed an agreement with Aeronautics Defense Systems, which is understood to cover Rafael offering payloads to equip Aeronautics-developed air vehicles.

Rafael's decision leaves Aeronautics, Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries as the major Israeli manufacturers of UAVs. Israel Military Industries has also previously made an abortive attempt to enter the market.

19-01-10, 12:11 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalItaly investigates loss of upgraded Predator UAV

By Luca Peruzzi

The Italian air force is investigating the cause of a crash involving one of its upgraded General Atomics RQ-1B Predator A Plus unmanned air vehicles on 13 January.

Initial reports suggest that the ground control station lost operational control of the UAV around 1h after it had taken off from Amendola air base on a training sortie. It ditched into the Adriatic Sea and was later spotted floating on the surface by two Alenia/Embraer AMX strike aircraft launched from the same base.

The UAV was recovered the following day, but details of its condition have not been released.

Italy's air force had taken delivery of at least three of its four Predator As to be converted to the new standard before the mishap, with two new-build examples also on order.

The modification process introduces an improved engine, extended wing and a Raytheon multi-spectral targeting system-A sensor payload. Satellite communications will also enable the type to be launched and recovered in an operational theatre, but controlled from Amendola.

Italy's Predator fleet has amassed more than 6,000 flying hours, with the majority logged in Iraq and more recently Afghanistan, where the enhanced version is now deployed.

The crash is the first to have been recorded by the air force's Amendola-based 28 Sqn, although an Italian Predator A was lost in February 2004 during initial operator training in the USA.

Italy is also in the process of acquiring four Predator B/Reaper UAVs, with deliveries to start in the first quarter of this year.

20-01-10, 02:30 PM
Soldiers in Iraq Employ New Unmanned Aircraft System

(Source: U.S Army; issued January 16, 2010)

CAMP TAJI, Iraq --- Placing a new aircraft in a combat situation is a true test of its capabilities and future role within the Army.

Unmanned aircraft systems have become a mainstay in military operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom; injecting new concepts and technologies will only further push the uses of these aircraft.

Quick Reaction Capability 1, attached to 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division - Center, is a small unit with a handful of Soldiers deployed from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion out of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., that has spent the past months putting the new MQ-1C Sky Warrior UAS through numerous tests to help Department of Army officials determine the path of the unmanned aircraft systems.

The Sky Warrior, a system larger than the Predator, is operated by Soldiers in Iraq as opposed to being flown remotely from the United States. It has a wing span of 56 feet and is capable of carrying Hellfire missiles.

The Department of the Army wanted QRC1 to be assigned to the Baghdad area of operations; and since the 1st Cavalry Division was in charge of operations for Baghdad at the time, the unit fell under 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, said Capt. Travis Blaschke, from Spokane, Wash., commander of QRC1.

"This aircraft is in its infancy. The aircraft that we have right now on the flight line are the first aircraft produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and deployed by the Army," said Blaschke. "All of the aircraft were built during the Development and Testing phase of the acquisition process, which means all the aircraft are prototypes."

Even though the Sky Warrior is still in a testing phase, it is being used in missions to support units on the ground. Through these missions, the QRC1 unit is gathering data to determine the direction the program will go.

"Our mission is to support [U.S. Division - Center] on all of their [reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition] missions by providing aero-scout capabilities to the maneuver commander," said Blaschke. "Our secondary mission is to validate the MQ-1C for the program of record."

Program of record, or POR, is the final milestone for any new Army asset. This will move the MQ-1C from development and testing into full rate production and adoption into the Army's common inventory.

The Army saw a need for having division-level UAS assets similar to the Air Force Predator. The Sky Warrior MQ-1C will answer this need, said Blaschke.

"We are actually testing the concept of operations, system limitations, hardware and software," he said. "We are working through a lot of challenges by forging a new path, but it has been worth it to see the incredible progress."

"To think that the company was created 14 months ago, finished qualification training eight months ago and we are now conducting full spectrum ... missions in theater is pretty amazing," he said.

QRC1 is a program that has been developed to assume and mitigate a lot of the risk for the POR, which should be developed in about three years, said Blaschke.

If the QRC1 program is successful, the Army has a plan in place to give every aviation brigade multiple Sky Warriors starting in 2011, said Blaschke. The aircraft would be a division-level asset and would be further dispersed down to the combat units to support the maneuver commanders.

"To date, the majority of the missions we are conducting involve the dissemination of full-motion video, which provides situational awareness for the commanders at battalion, brigade and even division," said Blaschke. "We have been over-watching air assaults, cordon and searches; conducting reconnaissance and surveillance."
Along with the ability to conduct surveillance and fly well beyond a dozen hours, once testing is complete, the Sky Warrior will be armed with Hellfire missiles, which will add another dimension to its combat role.

"This is an aircraft that can have different payloads," said Blaschke. "It has the capability of actually looking out long distances in order to find the enemy in different ways. Whether it is using the image intelligence, using signal intelligence, using measuring intelligence, this platform can not only find the enemy but will ultimately be able to engage and neutralize the enemy."

The Sky Warrior also has the capability to point out targets for other aircraft - enabling them to hit their target while the Sky Warrior aims, said Blaschke. It can guide in a Hellfire from an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter or even Joint Direct Attack Munitions from an F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon or F-22 Raptor - making a hunter-killer team.

"This aircraft will be standing side-by-side Army maneuver assets, rotary wing teams on air assault missions, or teaming with the ground maneuver commanders on cordons or raids," said Blaschke.

However, the Sky Warrior with all of its technology is nothing more than a display model without the men and women who operate the aircraft and know its full capabilities.

"The operators of the system need to be at the highest level of proficiency and also maintain the proper situational awareness to ensure they are supporting the ground commander to the best of their ability," said Blaschke.

Unlike the Air Force, who only allows officers to operate UAS, the Sky Warrior operators of QRC1 consist of officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel.

The QRC1 unit is on the edge of the envelope and Army leaders have high expectations for the future of the Sky Warrior program, according to Blaschke.

"We are in the process of honing the operators' proficiency to the highest levels and also developing this aircraft to the pinnacle of reliability and lethality," said Blaschke. "The future of MQ-1C operations is only limited by the breadth of our imagination."


20-01-10, 02:36 PM
BAE Systems Partners with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on First Test Flight of Coyote Unmanned Aircraft System

(Source: BAE Systems; issued January 19, 2010)

TUCSON, Ariz. --- BAE Systems, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has completed the first successful test flight of its small, electric-powered Coyote unmanned aircraft system. The system deployed in midair from a 3-foot-long sonobuoy dropped from a P-3 aircraft.

The flight, which lasted 49 minutes, marks a significant milestone in the development of the Coyote for military uses and scientific research.

“This is a major step forward for this innovative and one-of-a-kind system,” said John Wall, vice president of aviation programs for BAE Systems.

Initially funded by the U.S. Navy, the Coyote weighs only 13 pounds and has a 58-inch wingspan. During freefall, the system is designed to emerge from a sonobuoy, unfold its wings, and begin a directed flight path. Equipped with sensors or cameras, it can perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions while the host aircraft remains in safe airspace.

NOAA funded the test flight, using its WP-3D Orion aircraft, to explore the Coyote’s potential use in weather research. Future testing will assess the system’s suitability to be dropped into a hurricane or tropical storm to measure wind speed and other data critical to forecasting.

“Small unmanned aircraft systems are important tools that can help improve our understanding of the environment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nancy Ash, NOAA manager for the Coyote project. “The Coyote has demonstrated the potential to provide researchers with valuable observations of high-wind environments.”

BAE Systems is the premier global defense, security and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. With approximately 105,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £18.5 billion ($34.4 billion) in 2008.


More info from BAE...............

Coyote UAV
Developed under an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant the Coyote UAV can carry either an electro-optical (EO) or infrared (IR) camera and data transmitter. The mission is for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations with it being launched from either maritime-patrol aircraft or anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The three-foot-long electrically driven Coyote UAV is designed to be launched from the sonobuoy tube of a US Navy P-3C Orion or a helicopter, such as the SH-60, to provide 90 minutes ISR collection. At 12-14 lbs., the Coyote UAV has a cruising airspeed of 60 knots and dash airspeed of 85 knots being able to be launched and operate at altitudes up to 20,000 ft.

It is launched from inside a standard sonobuoy container being released after ejection with a parachute opening to slow and stabilize it before the Coyote?s x-wings unfold and electric motor starts turning the pusher style articulated propeller. Its flight is controlled via line-of-sight radio link (VHF or UHF), as far as 20 miles from the P-3 or helicopter controlling it.

Coyote is mission programmable from either the tactical officer's or pilot's station while still in the launch tube, using the existing tactical station hardware along with proprietary software. Once flying, Coyote follows an autonomous, pre-programmed path with real-time updates. It is undergoing certification through Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

PDF here............


22-01-10, 09:02 AM
US to supply 'Shadow' drones to Pakistan: officials

(AFP) – 7 hours ago

ISLAMABAD — The United States plans to provide Pakistan with a dozen unarmed drone aircraft that will help bolster its military as it takes on Taliban militants, US defence officials said.

Details of the drones emerged late Thursday during a visit to Pakistan by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was asked in an interview with Pakistani television if Washington would supply Islamabad with the unmanned aircraft.

"There are some tactical UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that we are considering, yes," Gates said.

Defence officials in his delegation afterward confirmed funds had been set aside to secure 12 Shadow aerial drones for Pakistan.

The Shadow drones, smaller than the armed Predator and Reaper aircraft, are about 11 feet (three metres) long and have a wing-span of 14-feet, with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.

The Pakistani military already had some less sophisticated drones for surveillance but would need to heavily invest in training specialists to be able to take advantage of the new hardware, said US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US employs armed drones for missile strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan, fuelling anti-American sentiment and drawing public condemnation from the government in Islamabad.

Pakistani officials have previously called for Washington to provide its military with armed drones.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

26-01-10, 12:55 AM
Russian Military Plans MALE UAV Development

Jan 25, 2010

By Maxim Pyadushkin

The Russian defense ministry wants to kick off the acquisition of a reconnaissance and attack medium-range UAV this year. But whether any supplier other than Tupolev will step forward to bid remains to be seen.

Tupolev is one of the nation’s traditional unmanned aerial vehicle designers, and it is already working on a concept—known by its Russian acronym of BAK SD—to meet the requirement.

Alexander Bobryshev, Tupolev’s president, says participating in the bidding process is one of his top priorities. “We are taking our stock [of unmanned technologies] now and plan to develop this direction.”

Other possible competitors include Sukhoi. However, even though the company has been considering medium- and high-altitude long-endurance UAVs, executives say such work has been suspended in this area for the moment. And Irkut Corp., which is offering a range of tactical UAVs, declines to discuss whether it will take part in the contest.

The heaviest model in the Irkut range—the unmanned DA42—was unveiled last August at the MAKS 2009 air show. The design uses the Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft as a platform to carry 250 kg. (550 lb.) of payload, including optical sensors, radar and cameras.

In gaining experience with the present generation of tactical UAVs, the Russian defense ministry has already taken the highly unusual step of purchasing from overseas. It acquired about a dozen Israeli-made platforms, including the Bird Eye 400 mini-UAV and 400-kg. Searcher Mk. II tactical reconnaissance drone.

At the time of the purchase, Vladimir Popovkin, the Russian armed forces’ chief of armaments, explained that the Israeli aircraft were being bought to gain experience in the operational use of these classes of systems and to train personnel. “We’re not saying that we are buying them and stopping all domestic developments in this field,” he commented.

As for Tupolev, its long heritage of UAV design and development stretches back to the 1960s. The company developed several models of jet-powered reconnaissance unmanned aircraft for the Soviet armed forces. The last was the 3,500-kg. Tu-300 Korshun drone developed under the Stroy-F program in the 1990s.

Leonid Kulikov, Tupolev’s chief unmanned systems designer, says the Tu-300 could perform strike missions carrying a combat load of almost 1,000 kg. During the factory trials, the Kor*shun engaged land-based targets using free-fall bombs. Nevertheless, at that time, the military decided to suspend development. Two Tu-300 prototypes remain, but the project is unlikely to be restored as the system’s design is now obsolete.

Kulikov says Tupolev’s proposal for BAK SD will not be based on the Tu-300 or other existing UAVs, but will be a completely new system. The work on new aircraft has just begun. “BAK SD will have a range of 500-700 km. [310-435 mi.],” he adds, although he refuses to discuss other parameters because the final design is not yet complete.

He says BAK SD should be a multi-role platform suitable for both reconnaissance and strike missions. The development of the new UAV will take up to five years, while the development cost will be several billion rubles, notes Kulikov.

Gennady Trubnikov, chief designer of unmanned system at Transas in St. Petersburg, says recent UAV efforts by Russian designers have been focused on small UAVs. Existing models have a payload of less than 100 kg. and are unable to carry weapons.

Transas engineers have developed a range of low-speed UAVs, the heaviest of which is the 95-kg. Dozor-100. This UAV was tested during the Russian-Belarus Zapad-2009 military exercises in September 2009.

During these trials, it performed two short flights for detection and identification of ships of the “enemy” over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. Trubnikov says the Dozor-100 will be tested in March during a 10-hr. flight to prove the UAV’s ability to operate at a 400-km. range

Transas also hopes to fly the 600-kg. Dozor-600 UAV this year. Powered by a pusher propeller, it offers a mission endurance in excess of 24 hr. at a speed of 130-150 kph. Dozor-600’s payload of 120 kg. potentially enables the aircraft to carry weapons, says Trubnikov. However, he was unwilling to comment on whether Transas will bid for BAK SD.

26-01-10, 01:16 AM
Israel's Heavy-Hauling UAVs Are Ready for Battle

By barbara opall-rome

Published: 25 Jan 2010 10:42

TEL AVIV - The Israel Air Force's Eitan (Steadfast) heavy-hauling, multimission UAV will soon become operational, the fruit of a two-year program to certify the system for networked operations with other manned and unmanned platforms.

The 4.5-ton Heron TP flies automatically in high-altitude safety for 60 hours at a stretch. (Israel Aerospace Industries) Produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Eitan - known internationally as the Heron P - made its operational debut last winter during Israel's Cast Lead anti-rocket assault on the Gaza Strip.

The 4.5-ton aircraft, whose wingspan nearly matches a Boeing 737's, flies automatically in high-altitude safety for 60 hours at a stretch. It carries 1 ton of specialized sensors, satellite communications gear and other equipment tailored to various IAF missions.

Sources here declined to specify how Israel's newest and largest UAV was used in the 22-day Gaza campaign, but confirmed that data from the wartime deployment sped up its operational acceptance.

That mimics the pattern blazed by the Shavit, an IAI-produced signals intelligence (SigInt) aircraft based on the Gulfstream 550, whose combat debut in the 2006 Lebanon War hastened its operational acceptance by the IAF.

With at least two new Eitans nearly ready to provide all-weather, sensor-to-shooter networked operations, sources in Israel say developmental efforts are shifting to equipping later aircraft for special missions now performed by manned Shavits.

"We want to expand flexibility of the multimission payload to take on more roles now done exclusively by manned aircraft," a Ministry of Defense development official said.

That would include comprehensive standoff collection and processing of strategic-level intelligence, defense and industry sources said. The UAVs are currently capable of gathering electronic and communications intelligence, but only at the tactical level.

"The Gulfstream costs three or four times more than Heron TP, and the UAV can remain airborne longer in high-threat territory," the MoD official said.

In the very long term, unmanned platforms could be converted into long-range jammers; the ministry's multiyear funding plans do not currently fund electronic warfare-specific development.

For the nearer term, MoD is funding technical studies aimed at miniaturizing elements of the multiton Airborne Integrated SigInt System payload developed by IAI's Elta Systems Division for the Shavit. In parallel, MoD is working with local industry to lower the electrical needs of the payload and other on-board systems.

Tommy Silberring, general manager of IAI's Malat Division that produces the Heron TP, declined to comment specifically on MoD plans for Israel's Eitans. Speaking in general, Silberring said the Heron TP's 1,200-horsepower engine can generate enough power for strategic signals collection and electronic eavesdropping missions - "but to go to active jamming for electronic warfare is not so easy."

The IAI executive said the Heron TP is designed to take on new and varied missions, and will assume increasing prominence in the IAF's future force.

"The IAF is well aware of how Heron TP can help," Silberring said. "They'll need to reduce payload power [for SigInt missions] but this area is certainly one of the missions to be included as many air forces make the gradual transition from manned to unmanned platforms."

Igo Licht, director of marketing and sales at Elta, said manned aircraft offer advantages over UAVs for strategic intelligence missions.

"Manned aircraft carry much more than UAVs, they offer much higher power generations and then there's the issue of bandwidth if you have to transmit to the ground. And because SigInt and special mission aircraft are inherently very long range, they're deployed at standoff ranges. They never will get close to enemy lines," he said.

Nevertheless, Licht acknowledged that Israel and other countries are giving UAVs missions once reserved for manned aircraft.

"There will be a sharing of missions, but we believe manned and unmanned aircraft will operate for many years side by side. For the next 10 or even 20 years, we don't see UAVs replacing manned SigInt aircraft," he said.

Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Center at Israel's Fisher Institute for Air and Space Studies, said long-endurance, high-flying UAVs such as the Heron TP will naturally evolve into new roles and missions, including signals intelligence and even electronic warfare.

27-01-10, 11:29 AM
DoD Updates Joint UAV-Control Doctrine


Published: 26 Jan 2010 17:43

Less than a month after news reports about Iraqi insurgents hacking into UAV video feeds, the Pentagon published a doctrine calling for better protection of data links between such aircraft and their control stations.

Requested by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, the Jan. 12 document, "Command and Control for Joint Air Operations," lays out a framework for all aspects of military aircraft operations in combat zones.

In general, it says, drone operations "should be treated similarly to manned aircraft" with regard to established doctrine, but their communications links are especially critical and must be protected since they are what ensure the planes' safe operation and return home.

The document makes no specific reference to enemies hacking into drone feeds to monitor or control the planes. But it says "communications security, and specifically bandwidth protection [from both friendly interference and adversary action] is imperative."

Iraqi insurgents have hacked into unsecured, line-of-sight and possibly satellite video feeds for the drones and, in some cases, were able to use this to receive early warning of U.S. actions. In December, DoD officials downplayed the risks, said they had known about the problem for a decade and said a fix was on the way.

The new document, which updates joint air operations doctrine published in 2003, says that when data links fail in combat it can be tough to get a UAV back to its base.

"Although [UAVs] can be programmed to return to base upon loss of communications, they rely on a nearly continuous stream of communications [for both flight control and payload] to successfully complete a mission," it says.

UAV operators must ensure that aircraft are able to fly home without interfering with other aircraft, it says.

"Another emergency planning factor is the potential for recovery of armed UA into an emergency divert base," it says. "Typically the divert base will incorporate a compatible launch and recovery elements to ensure safe UA recovery."

29-01-10, 03:03 AM
Pentagon Master Plan: Super-Size My Drone Fleet

By Nathan Hodge January 28, 2010 | 3:01 pm

The U.S. military already has plans in the works to grow its fleet of Predators and Reapers, the long-loitering, armed surveillance drones that have become a defining feature of the air war over Central Asia and the Middle East. Now, according to a draft version of the Pentagon’s new master strategy plan, the military wants to dramatically up the number of “orbits,” or air patrols, of the unmanned aircraft.

Courtesy of Inside Defense (subscription only), we’ve taken an early look at a “pre-decisional” copy of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, due for release on Monday. According to that draft, the Department of Defense is “is on track” to field and sustain 50 drone orbits by Fiscal Year 2013. What’s more, the Pentagon “will continue to expand the force to at least 65 orbits by FY 15.”

Just to give a sense of how significant this is, some context. On a visit to an “undisclosed location” in Southwest Asia last year, Noah got the inside scoop on current Predator and Reaper operations: The Air Force, he reported, has a total of 39 orbits in the Central Command region. And those orbits include the CIA’s controversial drone operations over Pakistan, which are technically compartmentalized from — but overlap with — the military’s efforts in Afghanistan. (“There are 39 orbits, that’s it. No wink, wink,” a military officer memorably told Noah.)

The Fiscal Year 2010 budget calls for funding to field and sustain a 50-drone orbit by 2013. But the addition of another 15 orbits by 2015 won’t be the end of it. According to the draft QDR, the Pentagon is also “exploring ways to enhance the effectiveness of its fleet of ISR aircraft by developing innovative sensor technologies, support infrastructures and operating concepts.”

A separate portion of the draft QDR looks at another future role for drones: As long-range bombers. In a passage devoted to expanding long-range strike options, the document notes that the Navy’s effort to develop a carrier-capable drone “offers the potential to greatly increase the range of strike aircraft operating from the Navy’s carrier fleet.”

As part of an earlier scrub of the defense budget, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates canceled a new Air Force stealth bomber that was originally scheduled to enter service in 2018. But as we’ve noted here before, an Air Force research professor has floated the idea of replacing strategic bombers with a future drone, possibly based on the Navy’s X-47B, a drone the Navy began funding a few years ago.

[PHOTO: U.S. Department of Defense]

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/01/pentagon-master-plan-super-size-my-drone-fleet/#more-22034#ixzz0dxkgpHGD

01-02-10, 12:35 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalSINGAPORE 2010: UAVs to have more range and strike capability

By Leithen Francis

The United State Air Force is working on new technologies that mean some of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the future will have in-flight refuelling capabilities, longer range and new strike capabilities.

UAVs are moving beyond surveillance and kinetic strike capabilities to include, for example, directed energy weapons, the US Air Force’s chief scientist Werner Dahm, told delegates today at the Singapore Airshow’s Aerospace Technology and Maintenance conference. Longer-range missions means the UAVs will require highly efficient engine technologies and in some instances this will involve using solar energy and regenerative energy capabilities, says Dahm.

He also says the US Air Force is working to develop UAVs that have in-flight refuelling capabilities and can use the US Air Force’s existing fleet of air tankers.

The US Air Force used a Learjet “as a surrogate for the unmanned aerial system platform” and “the Learjet successfully got into contact position with greater precision than with manned systems.”

Dahm adds, the US Air Force lands its General Atomics MQ-1 Predators manually whereas the Army uses automation to land its General Atomics MQ-1C Warriors and the Warriors have fewer mishaps on landing. “We have to build up people’s trust” in the technology, he says.

Other technological advancements that the US Air Force is pioneering include new multi-spot electro-optical/infra-red sensors for UAVs, says Dahm.
He also says the US Air Force is developing 3D mapping “to produce target quality information to have precision strike capability”.

Some UAVs in development are also smaller. These “micro systems have room-to-room intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance”, he says.
Because these micro UAVs require high manoeuvrability and an ability to operate at low speeds, the US Air Force has found that rotary or flapping wing technology is better than fixed wing technology, he adds.

With so many UAVs operating today, and in some instances over densely populated areas, the US Air Force has developed a “sense and avoid system” to avoid inflight collisions, says Dahm, adding that the system is similar to a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) on commercial aircraft.

He says “the growth in the number of UAVs has been stunning.”

The US Air Force, for example, had four Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawks and 31 Predators in 2004 but last year it had 14 Global Hawks, 125 Predators and 31 General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers. Next year the US Air Force is forecast to have 77 Global Hawks, 185 Predators and 250 Reapers.

08-02-10, 05:43 AM
RAF 'relying' on drones in AfghanistanFreedom of information request reveals unmanned weapons more prominent in RAF strategy

Rob Evans and Richard Norton-Taylor

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 7 February 2010 16.19 GMT

An MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar airbase in southern Afghanistan. Photograph: James Lee Harper/AFP/Getty Images

British forces are relying increasingly on unmanned drones to attack targets in Afghanistan, mirroring controversial tactics used by the US.

New Ministry of Defence figures show the RAF has fired 84 missiles from Reaper drones since they were first deployed there in June 2008, with more than 20 being fired over the past two months.

The RAF has not disclosed the number of US-made Reapers deployed in Afghanistan, but say they will double the total over the next two years. Defence chiefs say they have been slow to recognise their potential, both in a surveillance role and as a weapons carrier.

They are launched from a base in Kandahar, but are controlled remotely thousands of miles away by a squadron of some 90 RAF personnel based at Creech US air force base in Nevada.

The drones can carry out surveillance – what the RAF describe as a "staring eye" – of the battlefield around the clock, far longer than conventional manned aircraft. They are highly suitable in Afghanistan where they are not generally vulnerable to enemy fire, defence officials say.

Once a target has been identified, the RAF remote controllers can instruct the drones to fire their two 500lb laser-guided bombs and four Hellfire missiles.

The MoD does not specify how the missiles have been used, arguing the details would hinder operational effectiveness. However, defence sources say the drones are used against a wide variety of targets, especially "high-value targets" – a reference to Taliban commanders. They are often called in by British special forces and army commanders on the ground.

Missiles from a US drone flying over South Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal region are believed to have killed Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief last year. Highly publicised CIA attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida suspects on both sides of the Pakistan-Aghanistan border have been criticised for killing civilian bystanders and violating Pakistan's sovereignty.

The MoD says there have been no reports of RAF drones killing civilians.

The rules governing the firing of the Reapers' missiles "are no different to those used for manned combat aircraft, the weapons are all precision guided and every effort is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties is minimised", a defence official said.

There has been a long debate within defence circles about the legality of firing weapons from such a distance and about the authority given to drone controllers.

Chris Cole, director of the interfaith peace campaign Fellowship of Reconciliation, who used freedom of information legislation to shed light on the Reapers, said: "Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth."

He added: "We have a number of serious concerns not least because there is a picture beginning to emerge of high civilian casualties. In addition, the use of armed drones to target specific individuals could amount to summary or arbitrary execution."

Philip Alston, a UN human rights special rapporteur, warned in October that the US use of drones to kill militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan may violate international law. He called on the US to explain the legal basis for killing individuals with its drones. Many US intelligence officials view the Predator drones as their most important weapon against al-Qaida.CIA director Leon Panetta called them the "only game in town" last year.

The RAF is also flying small manned twin turboprop Beechcraft King Air planes to complement surveillance missions undertaken by the unmanned Reapers. They are equipped with sophisticated infrared radar and antennae for electronic and communications eavesdropping.

The MoD bought an initial batch of six Reaper drones from the US firm General Atomics, at a reported cost of £6m. One of the drones crashed in Afghanistan in 2008 in what defence secretary Bob Ainsworth called "a forced landing".

The drawbacks

Army commanders want more and more unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs, or drones as they are commonly known – because they give round-the-clock surveillance and can attack targets without needing to use troops.

However, their use, as they are set to be deployed more and more, raises questions.

Their "pilots" sit in front of computer screens thousands of miles away. Despite technology, drones cannot be subjected to the same decision-making as can an aircraft. A real pilot can make a split-second decision to divert a bomb or missile after it is fired. It is more difficult for UAV pilots to do this.

UAVs also suffer failures. Their use as weapons raises questions about rules of engagement, in turn raising legal and even ethical issues. And though unmanned, it takes about 100 personnel to ensure they function properly, including flying the routes they have been programmed to do.

08-02-10, 06:42 AM
Chris Cole, director of the interfaith peace campaign Fellowship of Reconciliation, who used freedom of information legislation to shed light on the Reapers, said: "Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth."

He added: "We have a number of serious concerns not least because there is a picture beginning to emerge of high civilian casualties. In addition, the use of armed drones to target specific individuals could amount to summary or arbitrary execution."

I don't think I've read any serious information on drones where it's been stated that the objective is the "clean and tidy solution to a conflict". It's always had to do with effectiveness and efficiency, not things being clean and tidy. Talk about projecting your own misconceptions. What is this guy on about? Does he really think that high civilian casualties are the fault of drones, specifically (here was silly me thinking it was because they're fighting AN INSURGENCY). And for that matter, the use of drones to target individuals - does he not understand that high value targets would be on the hit list of any armed force in a conflict? I'm sure the suicide bomber who blew up those CIA operatives was targeting them specifically too...

08-02-10, 08:38 AM
So if Special Forces use a sniper rifle on the battlefield to kill a Taliban commander, that is okay according to this person's view of the "laws of armed conflict" but if a Reaper UAV launchs a Hellfire to do it, it's "summary or arbitrary execution"?

What if a helicopter launches a Hellfire to do the job? Is that "execution"?

What a f*ckin toss pot.

Gubler, A.
08-02-10, 08:39 AM
Perhaps he'd prefer for the RAF to get rid of the Reaper and use the old Lancaster instead? No illusions about things being 'clean and tidy'... Though of course its the very leathality of modern weapon systems which mean the only people willing to attack us are religous crazies which is much, much easier than having to fight the Germans again...

08-02-10, 08:55 AM
Apparently discriminating between high and low value targets is "arbitrary execution", and yet somehow the capability implied by this capacity to discriminate is also responsible for a high death toll among civilians?

Sounds a bit contradictory to me...

On the subject of the Lancaster, maybe we should resurrect Bomber Harris too, I'm sure he'd be able to instruct this muppet as to what constitutes high civilian casualties...

Gubler, A.
08-02-10, 09:23 AM
The reality is most of these guys are full blown pacifists and disarmament lobbyists. Which is not a bad thing in itself but unfortunately rather than honestly argue in the community in favour of pacifism and disarmament they argue for partial limitations in military capability or action at every opportunity. Since they can’t win an argument amongst the public to disarm they try and target individual weapon systems one at a time. The apparent success of the land mine and cluster bomb bans have encouraged these groups to try and spread their efforts even when there isn’t a reasonable technical or moral argument. Case in point being the attempt to have the Australian Government outlaw the anti-tank sensor fuzed munition (Smart155) because of a cosmetic similarity to cluster bombs.

So they make war more dangerous for our side in their name of a small steps approach to their eventual ideology. That despite the weapons bans Governments keep on endorsing military action and some kind of weapon is used to meet this mission and that weapon may be a lot more dangerous to everyone in the battlespace than the one that was banned is not a consideration. Unfortunately rational assessment was stripped from much of the world’s left of centre political movements by the romanticism of the 1960s peace and urban revolutionary movements.

08-02-10, 11:41 AM
The reality is most of these guys are full blown pacifists and disarmament lobbyists. Which is not a bad thing in itself but unfortunately rather than honestly argue in the community in favour of pacifism and disarmament they argue for partial limitations in military capability or action at every opportunity. [...] Unfortunately rational assessment was stripped from much of the world’s left of centre political movements by the romanticism of the 1960s peace and urban revolutionary movements.

Hmm, most pacifists just do not believe or understand the rational logic behind military thinking. One could say that their ideology is postmodern and irrational.

08-02-10, 11:47 AM
This muppet, and others like him, wouldn't know a reasoned argument if it leapt up and kicked them in their (lacking) balls.

The whole subject of weapons bans is a nonsense as only (most of) the educated First World countries will adopt or even adhere to them, but then again most of them treat Troop losses as an insignificant matter that they have to suffer occasionally...........

The idiot from the article would suck dick rather than admit any military stance is necessary or even right............

08-02-10, 11:56 AM
This muppet, and others like him, wouldn't know a reasoned argument if it leapt up and kicked them in their (lacking) balls.

The whole subject of weapons bans is a nonsense as only (most of) the educated First World countries will adopt or even adhere to them, but then again most of them treat Troop losses as an insignificant matter that they have to suffer occasionally...........

The idiot from the article would suck dick rather than admit any military stance is necessary or even right............

Well, that's one way of phrasing it! :D

08-02-10, 12:05 PM
I try my hardest, although THAT little effort was pretty easy to emit! :rolleyes: :D

[These new emoticons are PURILE...................:mad:]

08-02-10, 12:17 PM
Al-Qaeda is a wounded but dangerous enemy

A U.S. Predator drone flies above Kandahar, Afghanistan. One of the unmanned craft is thought to have killed the leader of Pakistan's Taliban. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/associated Press)

By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 8, 2010

In the past six weeks, Americans have witnessed two jarringly different -- but completely accurate -- views of al-Qaeda's terrorist network. One image was that of terrorist leaders being hunted down and killed by satellite-guided, pilotless aircraft. The other was of an agile foe slipping past U.S. defenses and increasingly intent on striking inside the United States.

New assessments of al-Qaeda by the top U.S. counterterrorism experts offer grounds for both optimism and concern a year after President Obama took office. Officials say al-Qaeda's ability to wage mass-casualty terrorism has been undercut by relentless U.S. attacks on the network's leadership, finances and training camps. But even in its weakened state, the group has shifted tactics to focus on small-scale operations that are far harder to detect and disrupt, analysts say.

The deadly November shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., and the failed Christmas Day attempt to bomb an airliner -- both examples of the low-tech approach -- have raised the fear level in Washington and across the country. Some terrorism experts say the worst could be still to come as a wounded jihadist movement thrashes about in search of a victory.

"The noose is tightening, and al-Qaeda's leadership is accelerating efforts that were probably in place anyway," said Andy Johnson, former staff director of the Senate intelligence committee and now national security director for the Washington think tank Third Way.

In the past year, Johnson said, the "good guys have been scoring the points," killing key al-Qaeda leaders and disrupting multiple plots. But pressure on al-Qaeda in Iraq and Pakistan has forced terrorist operatives to flee to new havens, such as Yemen, and step up the search for weaknesses in Western defenses. While battered, "the enemy is unwavering and determined," he said.

On target

The U.S. ability to strike al-Qaeda's nerve center was on display recently with news of the apparent death of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, a close ally to al-Qaeda in the lawless frontier along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Hakimullah Mehsud, who suffered severe injuries in a missile strike in mid-January, was the second leader of the group to find himself in the path of a CIA Predator aircraft in the past six months. He also was closely linked to the Dec. 30 suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province.

U.S. drones have struck al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Pakistan 12 times this year, putting the Obama administration on a course to surpass 2009's record-setting 53 strikes, according to a tally by the Web site Long War Journal.

In testimony before two congressional panels last week, top U.S. intelligence officials said the campaign has shaken al-Qaeda's core leadership, the small band of hardened terrorists led by Osama bin Laden. The attacks, combined with a successful squeeze on al-Qaeda's cash supply, have impeded the group's ability to launch ambitious, complex terrorist operations on the scale of the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said.

"Intelligence confirms that they are finding it difficult to be able to engage in the planning and the command-and-control operations to put together a large attack," CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But intelligence officials also warned lawmakers of worrisome new evidence of al-Qaeda's ability to adapt. In an annual "threat assessment" to Congress, spy agencies described the emerging threat as more geographically dispersed and also low-tech, favoring lone operatives and conventional explosives.

'Short-term plots'

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, who presented the assessment to House and Senate panels, said the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit is emblematic of an evolving threat that relies on "small numbers of terrorists, recently recruited and trained, and short-term plots." The new tactics are less spectacular but also much harder to detect and disrupt, he said.

The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is a Western-educated young man who was apparently recruited because he had a U.S. visa and no record of ties to terrorist groups. Officials say that he was trained and equipped by one of al-Qaeda's rising affiliates, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and that he had a bomb made of a common military explosive sewn into his underwear, deliberately designed to thwart the kinds of safeguards put in place after 9/11.

The foiled plot came on the heels of the Fort Hood shooting rampage. That attack, and the arrest of an Army major apparently inspired by al-Qaeda, crushed the widely held perception that Americans were immune from the kind of violent home-grown extremism seen in Muslim enclaves in Western Europe. Blair acknowledged that intelligence agencies are newly concerned that Americans may be traveling overseas for training and returning to the United States to carry out terrorist strikes.

"A handful of individuals and small, discrete cells will seek to mount attacks each year, with only a small portion of that activity materializing into violence against the homeland," he said.

Blair testified that he thought another attempted strike by terrorists was "certain" in the next six months. The assertion was a response to a question by the Senate intelligence panel's chairman, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), about the likelihood that al-Qaeda would try to launch a major attack on Americans in the near future. But Blair also suggested that the rash of news about terrorist plots in recent weeks has created a false impression that the threat is new.

"We have been warning since September 11 that . . . al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists remain committed to striking the United States," he said. "What is different is that we have names and faces to go with that warning. We are therefore seeing the reality."

Terrorism experts and administration officials have described the Dec. 25 bombing attempt as a wake-up call that helped expose gaps in security that are now being addressed. But some analysts say the dramatic successes against al-Qaeda in Pakistan may have led U.S. officials to miss signs that the terrorist threat was morphing in new directions. Now the administration is scrambling to respond to both threats at once, said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University terrorism expert and senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

"Until Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the prevailing assumption was that we could fight and win by drone attacks. But the threats are diverse and spreading," Hoffman said. "Both administrations -- Bush and Obama -- had a tendency to focus on one threat, one enemy, emanating from one place. The use of predators in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a very effective tactic. But it's a tactic, and it's not a substitute for a strategy."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

08-02-10, 12:18 PM
Yeah, we need the old emoticons back. I felt attached to those suckers.

09-02-10, 10:34 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

What is in a CAP?

Posted by Amy Butler at 2/9/2010 8:05 AM CST

The U.S. Air Force could sharpen its message on the UAS front a bit. Just about every senior blue-suited officer on the speaking circuit is using the magic phrase "CAP," or combat air patrol, to outline plans to buy and field more UAS. .

Only a few short weeks ago, the Air Force was to provide 50 CAPs worth of Reapers for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They had 39 and counting as of late last year. And, then the goal changed. The Air Force was told to put its thinking CAPs on (sorry ... can't help myself).

SecDef Gates said last week they are bumping that up to 65 CAPs (yep, CAPs). So, imagine my surprise when Air Force officials (more than one) had trouble explaining to me what the heck a CAP is. How many aircraft are in it? How much does a CAP cost? I'm pretty sure Congress will want to know. Money flows in Washington for tail numbers, not CAPs.

After turning up no results to this question through official channels, I can thank one Air Force official who explained it to me on background.

Technically, a CAP provides a certain level (example 95%) of consistent coverage in a particular area. For use in the field, accountants and acquisition types at the Pentagon estimate 2.5 Reaper airframes are needed to provide a CAP to a commander in Iraq or Afghanistan. This would provide a high-level-of-confidence in consistent coverage.

But, there is more to it. The bean counters also assume that every CAP requires four tail numbers to account for needed spares and training platforms. Air Force officials are still wrangling with keeping enough platforms for use in training pilots and sensor operators while also offering systems forward for use in the fight.

So, the Air Force is essentially asking for 260 Reapers ... that is far more Reapers than F-22s, a sizeable buy.

But, I hope the Air Force can get its message clear on UAS. This is, after all, one of the potentially good things going for the troubled service. The mystery of the CAP isn't the first fumble in this area. There has also been the confusion over what you call a UAS. First we had UAVs, then UASs, then most absurdly RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft) ... now we've got CAPs.

Just a suggestion to the Air Force: Keep the message simple and focus on delivering the airplanes, not making up new ways to talk about them.

Bottom line 1 CAP = 4 Reapers (and ground equipment), 2.5 of which are expected to go forward to the fight.

10-02-10, 10:12 AM
I second the call for the old emoticons.

I didn't use them often, but when I did, they were great. The new lot fail the applicability test.


ARH v.4.0
10-02-10, 11:28 AM
I second the call for the old emoticons.

I didn't use them often, but when I did, they were great. The new lot fail the applicability test.


Bitch bitch bitch!

There's 103 of the fuckers to upload, it will take time...

10-02-10, 11:41 AM
Bitch bitch bitch!

There's 103 of the fuckers to upload, it will take time...

What else you got to do? HA!

10-02-10, 11:43 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalIAI unveils Sky-Eye 650 UAV

By Arie Egozi

Israel Aerospace Industries has unveiled a new variant of its mini unmanned air vehicle, the Bird-Eye 650.

The aircraft's new propulsion system is powered by fuel cells that allow for an endurance of 6h, doubling the performance of previous versions of the Bird-Eye. The new variant will also weigh less and include an advanced folding launcher.

"The improvements of the Bird-Eye 650 make it an even more cost-effective system," says Tommy Silberring, general manager of IAI's Malat division.

"The Bird-Eye 650 was developed using experience we garnered from the Bird-Eye 400, which in turn was developed based on our knowledge of other UAVs, such as the Heron," Silberring says.

IAI Bird-Eye 650

IAI says the Bird-Eye 650 is an advanced, affordable mini-UAS that can provide real-time day/night imagery data for urban operations and "over the hill" intelligence.

Each system consists of three air vehicles with electro-optical/infrared payloads, plus a portable ground control system, datalink, power source and repair equipment. The entire system is man-portable and can be deployed in the field by two people.

The portable ground control system is lightweight and allows for the automatic operation of the UAV and its payloads, while the datalink allows for digital ground communication. The system uses a man-portable remote video terminal and a ground control element.

ARH v.4.0
10-02-10, 12:55 PM
What else you got to do? HA!

Nothing unfortunately...

10-02-10, 10:54 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalDARPA launches search for unmanned A-10 replacement

By Stephen Trimble

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) could demonstrate within two to three years a new unmanned aircraft designed to provide aerial cover for troops in close proximity to enemy forces.

Proposals from industry are requested by DARPA by 21 February to demonstrate in 2012 or 2013 an unmanned component for a next generation close air support system. The complete system may eventually assume a role now traditionally served by the Fairchild Republic A-10 and other manned fighters, such as the Boeing F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin F-16.

More recently, armed unmanned air systems (UAS), including the General Atomics Aernoautical Systems Inc MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper have performed close air support missions, firing missiles on enemy forces in contact with friendly troops in addition to their surveillance roles.

DARPA's solicitation, dated 29 January, seeks both purpose-built UAS for close air support, as well as unmanned versions of manned fighters, including the "QF-4, QF-16 and UA-10". The QF-4 and QF-16 designates target drone versions of the original fighters, while the UA-10 is presumably a reference to an unmanned version of the A-10.

DARPA has set different performance requirements for unmanned versions. An unmanned variant of the A-10 would have to demonstrate comparable endurance to the manned version, while a purpose-built UAS would have to equal the persistence of the MQ-1 or MQ-9.

The payload of weapons and sensors sought by DARPA compares to the MQ-9, with only 907kg to 2,270kg (2,000lb to 5,000lb) requested. The aircraft, however, should have more agility than the Reaper. DARPA has asked for high sub-sonic speed greater than Mach 0.65 and capable of manoeuvres imposing higher than 3g pressure on the airframe.

The US Air Force has committed to making unmanned aircraft a regular part of close air support operations. In the USAF "Flight Plan" for UAS, the next-generation MQ-X aircraft is expected to perform the CAS role, in addition to several missions also performed now by the MQ-9.

Grey Havoc
11-02-10, 01:20 PM
If it's agility they want, NG could do worse than digging up the specs for the old YA-9 and using them as the basis for their proposal, or at least incorparate that interesting wing tech into a all new design.

11-02-10, 11:09 PM
Maryland Funds Work On VTOL Unmanned Aircraft

Feb 11, 2010

By Graham Warwick

American Dynamics Flight Systems will wind tunnel test the ducted-fan propulsion system for its proposed AD-150 vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned aircraft with support from the University of Maryland (UMD).

The university’s Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program has approved $135,150 in funding to test a scale model of the company’s patented High Torque Aerial Lift (HTAL) system in a tunnel at UMD.

“We get to work with UMD and the state provides 90 percent of the funding,” says Wayne Morse, American Dynamics president and CEO.

In 2009, the company conducted wind tunnel testing of a 3/10th-scale model of the AD-150 at UMD with funding support from MIPS. The AD-150 is a 500-pound-payload, 300-knot-cruise VTOL design aimed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Group 4 requirement for an expeditionary unmanned aircraft.

The HTAL is a shaft-driven ducted fan that provides vertical lift, directional control and propulsion. The swiveling nacelles are mounted at the tips of the AD-150’s wing, with the fans driven from a turboshaft engine mounted in the fuselage.

The ducts tilt fore and aft together for pitch control, but independently left and right for lateral control, according to technical development director Paul Vasilescu.

The model to be used at UMD will be 1/3-1/2 scale, and will be tested at different fan speeds, duct angles and tunnel speeds representative of the transition between vertical and horizontal flight. The experimental data will be used to validate computational models, he says.

Jessup, Md.-based American Dynamics also is completing fabrication of an “iron-bird” ground rig that will be used for static testing of the full-scale propulsion system. This will comprise a 1,200 shp T53 turboshaft, transmission, drive train and 38-inch diameter ducted fans, laid out as if in the aircraft.

Wind tunnel testing of the ducted fan is planned within four to six months, Vasilescu says, with the iron-bird rig testing to be completed this year at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

American Dynamics is using a combination of private equity and MIPS funding, he says, to raise the technology readiness level of the AD-150 in a bid to interest the Marine Corps in picking up the project for further development.

The Pentagon’s 30-year aviation plan, released last week, says the Marine Corps is to begin procurement of the Group 4 unmanned aircraft in Fiscal 2018.

Photo: American Dynamics Flight Systems

11-02-10, 11:14 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

German Heron Prepares for Afghanistan

Posted by Nicholas Fiorenza at 2/11/2010 10:22 AM CST

The personnel who will operate the Bundeswehr's Heron 1 unmanned vehicle are being trained for deployment next month. Three Herons plus a ground station will be deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Luftwaffe photo

The moving imagery taken by Heron will be evaluated by the same Recce Ground Station at Mazar-e-Sharif that handles the imagery collected by Luftwaffe Tornado Recce aircraft based there. But whereas the Tornadoes support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in preparing operations, Heron will be used tactically, for example reconnoitering a route before a convoy takes it.

Col. Jan Kuebart, squadron commander of Mazar-e-Sharif, describes Heron as "a significant complement" to the Tornadoes.

The Herons will be commanded by ISAF's Regional Command North, while the Tornadoes fly over all of Afghanistan in direct support of ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

13-02-10, 12:37 AM
Turkey's Long-Delayed Israeli UAVs Pass Hurdle


Published: 12 Feb 2010 11:34

ANKARA - A batch of Heron UAVs produced for Turkey by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems have passed critical performance tests in Israel, and Ankara is ready to accept the delivery of the drones, Turkey's top procurement official said Feb. 12.

The 4.5-ton Heron TP flies automatically in high-altitude safety for 60 hours at a stretch. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

"Six of the aircraft have successfully passed the tests inspected by a delegation of Turkish officials," said Murad Bayar, head of the government's defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries. "We are expecting their deliveries in the weeks ahead. And this closes the deal from our point of view."

The remaining four UAVs in the program will undergo similar performance tests in the next few months.

Turkey and the Israeli team had been at odds over delays of more than two years in the delivery of the Herons. The dispute regarding the technical fulfillment of contract specifications was resolved after revisions in the original terms and conditions, Bayar said.

IAI and Elbit won the Turkish UAV contract in 2005 against U.S. rivals. But the program was dogged from the start by technical difficulties.

The contract was worth $183 million, of which about $50 million would go to Turkish subcontrators Turkish Aerospace Industries and Aselsan.

The Heron dispute in recent months contributed to a major deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel. But a critical meeting between Turkish and Israeli defense ministers in late January paved the way for a degree of reconciliation.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been particularly critical of Israel's military offensive in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

16-02-10, 09:37 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

FY '11 Budget Clobbers Small UAS Builder

Posted by Joe Anselmo at 2/16/2010 12:38 PM CST

AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) campus northwest of Los Angeles is proof that innovation and entrepreneurship are still thriving in some corners of the aerospace and defense industry. The 700-employee company has fielded a line of small, remotely piloted aircraft -- one weighs just 1 lb. -- that easily fit into a soldier’s backpack. Switchblade, a new kamikaze UAS, is designed to dive into “soft targets,” such as a truck carrying enemy combatants, and blow up.

But it was AeroVironment¹s stock that nose-dived after Pentagon officials unveiled their Fiscal 2011 budget request on Feb. 1. The Army and Marine Corps plan to buy just 328 Ravens, the company’s best-selling UAS, far fewer than investors had expected. Over the next eight trading days, AeroVironment shares lost one-third of their value.

Michael Lewis, a senior equity analyst at BB&T Capital Markets, says the selloff was an over-reaction. While the Raven numbers were certainly disappointing, he says AeroVironment has developed or is working on promising new products. Those include a more secure digital data link, a stealthy UAS that takes off vertically and Global Observer, a large UAS that is designed to fly at 55,000-65,000 ft. for up to a week and “stare,” providing the equivalent of geostationary satellite coverage. The aircraft, which has a 175-ft. wing span and was developed with $120 million in funding from six U.S. government agencies, is expected to begin flight tests within weeks.

Lewis projects that if those tests are successful, Global Observer could ultimately mean $1.6 billion in sales for AeroVironment, far more than Raven. “You¹re looking at a new opportunity that could essentially double the size of the company,” he says. “I view this stock as one of the best buying opportunities in defense and space at this time.”

Meanwhile, a separate unit of the company recently won a contract from Nissan Motor to supply electric vehicle home-charging stations for a new zero-emissions automobile. But investors who bet on AeroVironment should be prepared for more bumps. “Long-term, we think we¹ve got some pretty significant growth opportunities,” says a senior company executive. “But we don¹t have anywhere near the diversity of customers or products that a mid-sized prime has. So short-term performance can be somewhat lumpy, as a result of the timing of orders.”

16-02-10, 09:48 PM
Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial System Demonstrates Critical Resupply Capability

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.; issued February 15, 2010)

SAN DIEGO --- Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully demonstrated that its MQ-8B Vertical Unmanned Aerial System (VUAS) can resupply U.S. or coalition troops deployed on a combat mission.

The company conducted the autonomous proof-of-principle resupply capability during the current Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Fort Benning, Ga. AEWE gives soldiers a first-hand look at emerging technologies and concepts.

"Fire Scout's ability to deliver supplies autonomously demonstrates its readiness to support troops in the field," said Al Nikolaus, program director of land-based Fire Scout at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "It also highlights one of the many advantages of a vertical unmanned aerial system. We have matured this capability and we're eager to support our warfighters in theater with the resupply of small-unit logistics that is so vitally needed."

For the AEWE mission, Fire Scout had two ruggedized containers attached to external pylons. Fire Scout flew autonomously from take-off to the cargo drop to landing. The VUAS also used its electro-optical/infrared optical payload during the mission to practice reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) techniques. The ability to conduct simultaneous RSTA and logistics missions is another unique Fire Scout capability.

Fire Scout is equipped with a payload interface unit, which allows it to release the cargo pod without the presence of a soldier. Fire Scout observed the landing area to confirm the area was free of obstacles and personnel prior to landing. Upon landing, Fire Scout's skid sensors detected contact with the ground. Upon touchdown, the autonomous mission was preplanned for release of the cargo pod and seconds later the aircraft took off again to continue its RSTA mission.

"Fire Scout's ability to operate at low ground speeds and operate in remote, unprepared landing zones allows it to move with warfighters in the field and easily acquire and track targets in complex and urban terrain," said Nikolaus. "It's fully autonomous, and swiftly performs the dull, dirty and dangerous missions without putting soldiers in harm's way."

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.


17-02-10, 10:55 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalUS Army may ditch OH-58 Kiowa Scouts for pilotless fleet

By Stephen Trimble

The US Army is investigating options for replacing its Bell OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters with a partly or wholly unmanned fleet.

The army's plan to replace the OH-58 has been in limbo for six years. In February 2004, the army cancelled the RAH-66 Comanche programme. Four years later, the army also terminated the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho.

Both programmes faced significant delays and cost overruns before they were terminated.

The new OH-58 replacement concept, called the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS), has drawn interest from manned aircraft, including the EADS/Lockheed Martin AS645 and the Boeing AH-6S.

The army's analysis of alternatives is considering a broader range of options. The mission for the AAS concept is to provide reconnaissance and strike capabilities, which are missions increasingly performed by unmanned air systems.

Grey Havoc
17-02-10, 01:13 PM
Sounds like certain parites are trying to resurrect UCAR.

17-02-10, 02:11 PM
Artist’s impression of an X-47B long-range unmanned combat air vehicle on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The X-47B is due to fly later this year. (US Navy photo)

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Taking Shape On Board Lincoln

(Source: U.S. Navy; issued February 13, 2010)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea --- Personnel from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS) program team and industry partner Northrop Grumman Corporation are underway with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) to test the integration of existing ship systems with new systems that will support the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D).

This effort will reduce program risk and is one of many steps toward the X-47B's first carrier arrested landing or "trap."

The X-47B will be the first unmanned jet aircraft to take off and land aboard an aircraft carrier. With a 62ft wingspan and length of 38ft, the X-47B is about 87 percent the size of the F/A-18C aircraft currently operating aboard Navy aircraft carriers.

The UCAS-D effort is focused on developing and demonstrating an aircraft carrier (CV) suitable, low observable (LO) unmanned air system in support of persistent, penetrating surveillance, and penetrating strike capabilities in high threat areas. The effort will evolve technologies required to conduct launch, recovery, and carrier controlled airspace (CCA) operations and autonomous air refueling (AAR) of an LO platform.

By FY13, the Navy plans to achieve UCAS CV demonstration; achieve hybrid probe & drogue (USN style) and boom/receptacle (USAF style) AAR demonstration; and evaluate and identify technologies supporting future naval capability requirements.

Mark Pilling, a former naval flight officer with operational unmanned aircraft experience, is the team's mission operator. He and his team are charged with verifying mission operator software between the ship and aircraft.

"This is the first step in the X-47B's integration into the carrier's systems," said Pilling.

The team is testing X-47B software integration by using a King Air turbo prop "surrogate" aircraft taking off and landing from shore. As the aircraft approaches the carrier, it performs the same types of procedures as manned aircraft. However, since the X-47B is unmanned, digital messages from shipboard controllers will be used to control the aircraft instead of verbal instructions. In response to the digital command and control messages, the plane's software confirms, complies and sends a "wilco" signal back to the controllers and mission operator.

"Over the last two at sea periods on Lincoln, we have integrated into a number of the ship systems, from PriFly, to CATCC, to the LSO platform," said Pilling.

Janice Stolzy, the Northrop Grumman project lead, is on board to verify that the prototype equipment works in a real-time operational environment. Stolzy said successful UCAS-D system testing on Lincoln will set the stage for additional developmental testing later this year, including testing the software integration using an F/A-18 surrogate aircraft to more closely emulate the X-47B's flight path.

John Zander, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) lead test engineer, said a prime benefit of a UCAS concept is to reduce the risk to human pilots. "This is an important milestone for the Navy and we're making great strides on board Lincoln," said Zander.

Additional UCAS-D development activities are underway at multiple NAVAIR and Northrop Grumman sites throughout the United States. First flight of the X-47B is expected later this year.


17-02-10, 02:25 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

USMC moves closer to deciding on unmanned resupply for Afghanistan

By Stephen Trimble

The US Marine Corps could decide shortly whether to deploy unmanned air systems for the sole purpose of taking some truck convoys off Afghanistan's perilous roads.

Awarding a contract for the cargo resupply mission could do more than open a new market for unmanned systems. Depending on which aircraft the USMC selects, the contract could restart production of the Kaman K-Max helicopter or provide the first operational role for the Boeing A160 Hummingbird.

A Kaman/Lockheed Martin team has completed a flight demonstration under a contract awarded in August. Its competitor, Boeing, is expected to finish its flight demonstration with the A160 before mid-March.

Meanwhile, a third contender could re-emerge if the USMC decides to open the contract for the Afghanistan deployment to all bidders. Although the USMC rejected the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout team's proposal last August, the company has recently demonstrated autonomous resupply capability with the Fire Scout for the army.

Mike Fuqua, Northrop's business development director for tactical unmanned systems, confirms the Fire Scout could be resubmitted if the USMC reopens the competition.

The Fire Scout would face a formidable challenge against the K-Max or Hummingbird. During the army demonstration, the Fire Scout lifted about 41kg (90lb). Fuqua says the Fire Scout could "pretty reasonably" haul a maximum of about 400kg of cargo.

But the K-Max demonstrated the ability to lift 680kg up to about 12,000ft (3,660m), says Dan Spoor, vice-president of aviation systems and Lockheed's Owego, New York, facility. The K-Max also carried four separate loads weighing 340kg each at the same time, delivering the full load autonomously, Spoor says.

The Hummingbird is listed as capable of carrying up to 1,134kg, and has recorded a record-breaking 18h flight with a full mission payload.

The USMC staged the competition to prove whether the concept of an unmanned resupply mission is feasible. The aircraft must be able to change its route mid-flight if the landing zone changes, possibly as a result of enemy fire.

US Army officials have been reluctant to share the USMC's interest in the resupply mission by unmanned aircraft. In October, a senior army official said the service would prefer to modify its manned helicopters to perform the resupply mission autonomously, rather than buy a purpose-built fleet.

The Lockheed/Kaman team, however, say they have recently received interest from the army about the K-Max.

"We're engaged in some conversations with the army. But nothing has been requested yet," Spoor says.

18-02-10, 10:52 AM
French Want MALE Decision Early This Year

Feb 17, 2010

By Michael A. Taverna, Douglas Barrie and Robert Wall

As key European players ponder procurement strategies for medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV requirements, French lawmakers are urging greater effort from their government while offering support for Anglo-French collaboration.

The French National Assembly’s defense committee wants to see more funding allocated to meet a MALE UAV requirement, with the speed of acquisition also increased.

Paris, London, Berlin and Rome all have MALE UAV needs, and defense ministries and industry are exploring various collaborative options. The outcome of their deliberations may also influence the potential for joint work in the unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) arena.

The French defense committee contends that the strategic importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) requirements is such that Europe must retain a sovereign role in this arena. The lawmakers—in a report examining France’s MALE procurement options—argue that the strategic nature of the project militates against an off-the-shelf purchase or a lease deal. They also caution against using Israeli or U.S. platforms as the basis of a MALE ISR system except as a stopgap until a European platform can be fielded.

European industry executives suggest that France could have an eventual overall program requirement for up to 30 MALE UAVS, similar to that of the U.K. and slightly more than Italy’s.

Despite the priority given by Paris to a MALE UAV in a 2007 white paper, the defense committee maintains that so far this is not reflected in the funding allocated. It says barely €90 million ($122.4 million) has been allocated for the Harfang/SIDM interim MALE UAV currently in service.

Moreover, the new military spending plan approved last year earmarks only €139 million more over the next five years—barely enough to cover attrition and upkeep for the Harfang, and several times below the amount required to fund a development program, national or collaborative.

The authors of the report, Jean-Claude Viollet and Yves Vandewalle, acknowledge that with budgets tight, the MALE UAV will have to be a partnership effort; they suggest that the BAE Systems-led Mantis project may be the most suitable avenue for cooperation. Mantis, which first flew last October, is a candidate for Britain’s so-called Operational Unmanned Aerial System (OUAS) requirement.

Last summer, Paris and London agreed to forge closer ties in UCAVs and UAVs for ISR applications (AW&ST July 13, 2009, p. 22). At an industry gathering in Paris on Feb. 2, Viollet said the U.K. has made “a clear proposal to codevelop [the new MALE system] with French industry involvement.” BAE would be responsible for the platform and guidance/navigation system, Dassault Aviation for integration and Thales for the payload. Italy is also said to be interested in joining the initiative.

The U.K. Defense Ministry is pondering a go-ahead for an OUAS assessment phase and “may well consider a collaborative development and production solution,” says a ministry official.

The French report finds that the competing EADS-led Talarion/Advanced UAV, which had been favored in certain quarters, presents a greater risk. The development cost for Talarion, which is also backed by Spain, is €1.5 billion, one-third of which would be provided by France.

Initial deliveries could start in 2015. However, the total cost for 15 systems would amount to €2.9 billion, and the French armaments agency (DGA) does not foresee Talarion becoming available before 2018-20, the report notes. Moreover, German support for the undertaking may be wavering, says Viollet, and the armed forces have deferred a launch decision until the fall.

Indeed, Germany’s position on a MALE acquisition is complicated by deep divisions between military and industrial interests . EADS has been aggressively promoting the Talarion , arguing that Europe needs such a program to sustain its aircraft design capacity. The company has been self-funding design activities on the project, but executives say they need government financing by midyear to continue.

However, the German air force, the putative user, is not happy with the timeline. A senior air force officer complains that Talarion’s schedule does not satisfy his service’s needs. EADS promises an initial operational capability in late 2017, but the officer notes that the company’s track record on program execution suggests that date is unlikely to be met.

Instead, the air force has been urging a quicker fielding, and says Talarion-like capabilities could be in place much sooner if the government bought a foreign, off-the-shelf system. Germany recently leased Israel Aerospace Industries Heron UAVs to meet urgent operational needs in Afghanistan, and the Luftwaffe is clamoring for more. However, air force brass acknowledge that their preferences are likely to be superseded by industrial policy considerations.

In its latest aerospace white paper, Berlin calls for preserving a national design capability in unmanned aircraft in what is widely regarded as tacit endorsement of the Talarion initiative. Moreover, EADS says it is proposing a much bigger role for its French partner, Thales. And despite the French report’s preference for the U.K.’s Mantis, the authors acknowledge that the cost of the system is not known.

Viollet says whatever the choice, it is essential that a decision on a program launch be made soon to prevent a capacity gap. Three Harfang aircraft and one ground station are now operating in Afghanistan; a fourth aircraft and a second control system were added recently. Although the report notes that Har*fang (which is based on the Heron-1) has performed well, the system was deployed five years behind schedule and, the authors assert, will have to be replaced by 2013. EADS contests that figure.

To ensure a continued MALE UAV capability, the report recommends an interim platform proposed by Dassault and Thales based on an improved IAI Heron-TP . Dubbed SDM, the system would cost €700 million for three units and could be ready within 48 months. Other options include lease of a Heron-1- based system or adapting Sagem’s new Patroller tactical UAV so it can provide an interim MALE capability by installing a satellite link.

18-02-10, 11:53 PM
U.S. Army To Seek Bids To Upgrade Shadow UAVs


Published: 18 Feb 2010 13:20

The U.S. Army will likely seek bidders to upgrade its Shadow RQ-7C UAVs, a top service UAV official said.

A development document for a "major refresh" is working its way through the Pentagon approval process, said Tim Owings, deputy project manager for unmanned aircraft systems within the Army's Program Executive Office for Aviation.

Speaking Feb. 17 at a conference in Washington, Owings said Shadow is about to become an acquisition category I program - a designation for large, complex or risky effort - and will thereafter require approval from Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter on major decisions.

Once the requirement is approved, Owings said he expects a request for information to be released in early 2011, with a request for proposals in early 2012.

Owings said the service would host a fly-off between competing aircraft to be sure no capability is lost.

"We don't want to go backwards," he said.

AAI Corp., Hunt Valley, Md., currently builds the aircraft.

19-02-10, 12:09 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalSelex Galileo parks enhanced Falco UAV

By Rob Coppinger

Selex Galileo has put on hold an enhanced version of its Falco unmanned air vehicle, called the Evolution (Evo). It is focusing instead on an all-weather imaging, communications and signals intelligence-capable variant that is designed for African, Asian and Middle Eastern customers.

In 2009 Selex conducted a Falco demonstration flight in an unnamed Middle Eastern location for more than 12h and another in an unidentified North African country that lasted for over 14h. The company has previously said that it hopes to sell the type to Libya. An Asian country - widely known to be Pakistan - is the launch customer for the Falco.

Selex says that it "collated interest" in the all-weather imagery and communications intelligence variant last year, and confirms that this would also have increased endurance available as a future retrofit option.

The Italian manufacturer was to test fly the Evo, with its longer booms, wider 14m (45.9ft) wingspan and payload increase from 70kg (154lb) to 120kg, this year. "Further development of the Falco Evo depends on current negotiations, as we already have all the development plans and know how to move ahead," it says.

In December Selex announced that it had completed full envelope testing of the Falco. This includes the use of electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar sensors, including the company's active electronically scanned array PicoSAR design, plus a smaller SAR package with a ground moving target indication capability.

© Selex Galileo

However, as the company announced the completion of testing with the UAV, the Italian authorities were investigating last September's heavy landing of a Falco at West Wales airport in ParcAberporth. The aircraft's landing gear and payload were damaged in the incident.

Selex is considering whether it will conduct further activities at ParcAberporth, citing "quite stringent" operating conditions.

19-02-10, 12:14 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalGeneral Atomics attracts first customer for Avenger UAV, claims Lockheed

By Stephen Trimble

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has attracted a customer for its stealthy and secretive Avenger unmanned air system, but as a high-altitude surveillance platform, a prospective subsystem supplier says.

A customer has demanded that General Atomics install "Global Hawk-like" payloads on the Avenger, says Don Bolling, a Lockheed Martin senior business development manager.

The company had previously agreed to install Lockheed's electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on the Avenger, but that effort is on hold due to the undisclosed customer's interest in the high-altitude mission, Bolling says.

Bolling declined to identify the interested customer. Lockheed has sold the Avenger's two predecessors - the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper - to a wide range of buyers, including US and foreign militaries, intelligence groups and civilian government agencies.

General Atomics declines to comment about Bolling's statements about the Avenger, which is designed to fly to up to 60,000ft (18,300m).

© General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Lockheed's statements raise the Avenger's profile as a high-altitude surveillance platform. The design was widely considered a next-generation replacement for the Predator/Reaper family, but it may also serve as an alternative to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The decision to put the EOTS integration effort on hold is a setback to Lockheed's attempts to adapt the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's targeting forward-looking infrared camera and infrared search and track (IRST) sensor to other stealthy aircraft.

Lockheed also has discussed integrating the EOTS as a passive imaging sensor on the Northrop B-2 bomber, but those discussions have also not yielded progress, Bolling says. He attributes the reluctance on EOTS to the B-2 programme's familiarity with synthetic aperture radar systems.

Lockheed continues to believe that the F-35's targeting system can be adapted for future stealthy aircraft, such as the MQ-X requirement for a Predator/Reaper replacement, and a need for a next-generation bomber.

Meanwhile, Lockheed has delivered the first production-configuration EOTS to the F-35 flight-test programme. The system is scheduled to be installed on the co-operative avionics testbed aircraft in April and enter flight testing in June, Bolling says.

The system's IRST sensor will initially provide a 60° azimuth scan capability. A planned processor upgrade will increase the scan window to 120°, Bolling says.

19-02-10, 01:42 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalElbit flies Hermes 90 UAV with Micro Compass payload

By Arie Egozi

Elbit Systems has completed a series of successful flights of the Micro Compass electro-optical payload with its Hermes 90 unmanned aircraft system.

These demonstrated enhanced capabilities by day and night, such as target recognition, stationary and mobile target tracking and use of a laser range-finder, says Elbit. It has previously flown the Hermes 90 using a heavy fuel engine, and plans to integrate and test a new laser designator in the near future.

Elbit Systems of America/General Dynamics joint venture UAS Dynamics is offering a Hermes 90 derivative dubbed the Storm as a candidate for the US Navy/Marine Corps Small Tactical UAS/Tier II requirement.

© Elbit Systems

The baseline Hermes 90 has a mission range of more than 100km (54nm) and a flight endurance of around 15h.

19-02-10, 02:04 PM
New Unmanned Aerial System Tests Advanced Missile

(Source: U.S Army; issued February 18, 2010)

The Army's newest and most advanced Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAS, has successfully completed a series of tests with the Hellfire II UAS --- a missile specially engineered to fire from a UAV with a 360-degree targeting ability, service officials said.

The tests, involving nine perfect or near-perfect missile firings, took place at the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, Calif., and demonstrated the missile's ability to engage a wider target envelope than a typical Hellfire missile, said Tim Owings, Deputy Project Manager, Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

"The significance to this is this is the first missile designed specifically for a UAV. The Hellfire UAS missile can take advantage of a 360 look around angle. The ball on the UAV can swivel 360 degrees -- and with this missile you can engage targets that are below you, behind you and well off-axis from what a typical Hellfire can do," said Owings. "There were nine successful shots. The big point is the laser designation system, the weapons system and the UAV all performed as designed and as expected. It was a really clean test."

The testing began Nov. 22, 2009, with the unmanned system first performing dry runs against a target with an inert test missile on the inboard rail of the right wing. After confirming data was transmitting properly between the missile and aircraft and to the China Lake Range Control Center, a successful "cold" pass using a live powered missile took place, allowing the test to continue with an actual firing.

"The cold pass is assuring you have the missile locked on to the target. The hot pass is when you go all the way to a weapons release," said Owings.

The firing, or "hot" pass, involved coordination between the mission payload operator and air vehicle operator, or AVO, at precise waypoints during the flight and then the AVO pressed the weapons fire button sending the missile from the inboard rail of the left wing to the target with a successful impact.

More demanding test firings, which took place in late November and December, included assessing the capabilities of the system against a variety of conditions such as firing at varying altitudes, against both stationary and moving targets, and using different auto-track modes. The system was also tested with firings happening at varying offset angles; the Hellfire II UAS missile is capable of being fired in any direction and correcting course to find and strike its target, allowing for greater flexibility of use in combat situations.

The test series involved several months of integration testing between the ER/MP contractor General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc.'s Software Integration Laboratory, the El Mirage Flight Test Facility in El Mirage, Calif., and Edwards Air Force Base prior to the firings to ensure the software would perform optimally during live firings.

The test firing helped pave the way for the ERMP's successful completion of a Milestone C review, marking approval for the UAS Project Office to enter into Low Rate Initial Production.

"The milestone C authorized us for the procurement of two complete systems of the Warrior and an additional eight vehicles for training and replacement of war-loss vehicles," said Owings.

There are 12 aircraft in each system, Owings said.

The decision was rendered by the Department of Defense on Feb. 2, 2010, following the program's review for compliance with all milestone criteria and the successful completion of an Operational Assessment test phase. The Milestone C review assessed production readiness and program acquisition maturity.

A quick reaction capability of four weaponized vehicles are slated to deploy to Afghanistan in July of this year, Owings said.

"The process we've taken is to spin out technologies into theater as they mature," he added.

When deployed later this year, the new ER/MP unmanned aircraft system will feature a heavy fuel engine, triple redundant avionics, and redundant flight controls/surfaces, and network connectivity that reduces information cycle time and enhances overall battlespace awareness.

It is capable of flying for more than 30 hours, can operate with or without satellite communications data links and, in addition to four Hellfire missiles, it will carry a advanced targeting system for immediate situational awareness and target detection.


19-02-10, 11:59 PM
More on this.........

US Army increases UAS targeting capability with enhanced Hellfire missiles

The experimental Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAS.

US Army concludes successful tests with Hellfire II UAS missiles on MQ-1C ER/MP UAS

09:47 GMT, February 19, 2010 defpro.com | As unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continue their push into many fields of modern aviation, in particular in reconnaissance, strike and close air support missions, the US Army is carrying out tests to further improve the target envelope of existing weapon systems.

As the US Army recently reported, the service’s newest and most advanced UAS, the MQ-1C Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAS based on the US Air Force Predator, completed a series of tests with the Hellfire II UAS missile. The latter is specially designed for us on unmanned aircraft and, according to the Army, provides a 360-degree targeting ability.

The firing tests have been preceded by integration testing between the MQ-1C contractor General Atomics' Software Integration Laboratory, the El Mirage Flight Test Facility, and Edwards Air Force Base.

Firing Tests at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station

The tests, carried out at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in California, were intended to demonstrate the missile’s ability to engage a wider target envelope than its former variants. On the occasion of the successful tests, which already began in November 2009, the Deputy Project Manager, Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Tim Owings, stated that nine perfect or near-perfect missile firings were achieved.

Having been the first firings of missiles from the MQ-1C Warrior, the tests started with dry runs against a target with an inert test missile on the inboard rail of the right wing. Upon receiving positive results for the data transmission between the missile, the aircraft and the China Lake Range Control Center, a successful “cold” pass was carried out, using a live powered missile and primarily assuring that the missile locks on to the target.

The more advances stage in the testing, involving a “hot” firing of the missile, proved that the missile performs as expected. The firing test provided a successful impact, after the approach was controlled by and coordinated between the mission payload operator and air vehicle operator, or AVO, at precise waypoints during the flight.

Greater Flexibility in Combat

Capable of being fired in any direction and correcting course to search and strake its target, the Hellfire II UAS missile is expected to provide UAS with a greater flexibility in ground attack missions.

“The Hellfire UAS missile can take advantage of a 360 look-around angle. The ball on the UAV can swivel 360 degrees - and with this missile you can engage targets that are below you, behind you and well off-axis from what a typical Hellfire can do,” said Owings. “There were nine successful shots. The big point is the laser designation system, the weapons system and the UAV all performed as designed and as expected. It was a really clean test.”

As the Army reported, “the test firing helped pave the way for the ERMP's successful completion of a Milestone C review, marking approval for the UAS Project Office to enter into Low Rate Initial Production.”

The milestone C, confirming production readiness and program acquisition maturity, will allow the Army to purchase two complete systems, each including 12 aircraft, as well as eight aircraft for training purposes and for replacement of war-loss. According to Owing, the first set of aircraft (four weaponised MQ-1C) is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010.

Powered by a Thielert Centurion heavy fuel engine (HFE), the Warrior is capable of flying for more than 30 hours. It can operate with or without satellite communications data links. In addition to four Hellfire missiles, the deployed aircraft will carry an advanced targeting system for immediate situational awareness and target detection.

Pushing forward the importance of UAS attack capabilities

The tests have been a real first in different aspects, as this was not only the first missile firing from the MQ-1C. The Hellfire II UAS is also the first missile specifically designed for the use on an unmanned aircraft, pushing forward one step further into the age of unmanned warfare. An ongoing poll at defpro.com on the future of UAVs shows that only 50% of the voters think that UAS’ might replace unmanned aircraft in the field of ground attack and CAS (see http://poll.fm/18yg3) (To put this into perspective: The voters show a 99% approval for the future prevalence of UAS in the field of reconnaissance and intelligence. – Ed.).

While the long-standing question, whether unmanned aviation may one day replace manned aviation, has to remain open for the moment, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the growing industrial focus, indicate a clear trend towards a significant increase of unmanned systems in modern warfare. The enhanced capability which the Hellfire II UAS may provide to unmanned aircraft may further accelerate this trend.
By Nicolas von Kospoth, Managing Editor

20-02-10, 12:04 AM
Predator C Set For Testing At Edwards

Feb 19, 2010

By Guy Norris

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) expects to get the go-ahead from FAA to start tests of the stealthy, turbofan-powered unmanned Predator C Avenger at the U.S. Air Force’s Edwards Air Force Base test range in California.

“We anticipate receiving approval from the FAA in the immediate future to fly into the Edwards AFB range so that we may complete full envelope flight testing,” says GA-ASI Chairman and CEO Neal Blue. The V-tailed, swept-wing vehicle first flew on April 4 last year and, according to GA-ASI at the time, was provisionally slated to undertake a test program lasting up to three months.

Despite what appears to be a longer-than-expected evaluation, Blue adds that “flight tests of the Predator C Avenger are progressing as expected, with routine issues being addressed as the testing process continues.”

Up until now, Avenger flight tests have been undertaken in relatively restricted airspace close to the company’s test facilities in the Mojave Desert; the transfer to the Edwards range will allow tests at higher altitudes and speeds. The Avenger’s operational altitude is up to 60,000 feet, and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B engine is expected to give the vehicle a top speed “considerably greater” than 400 knots, according to GA-ASI. Blue adds that a second aircraft is due to be completed later this year.

The transition of the Predator C to the range comes as initial tests wrap up on the two latest variants of the current Predator for the U.S. Army and Customs and Border Protection Service. Weapons tests of the U.S. Army’s MQ-1C Sky Warrior, a heavily modified derivative of the Predator A, were successfully completed earlier this month following the last live firings of nine Hellfire P+ missiles. The version of the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II is the first to be specifically developed for a UAV and is designed with a full 360-degree targeting capability.

The soon to be redesignated Gray Eagle UAV, currently called the extended range/multipurpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft system by the Army, is being fast tracked into service with newly-formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blue says the updated release will be used to support soldier training prior to a limited user test scheduled for May 2010, and subsequent fielding on schedule in July 2010.

Overwater developmental tests of the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) first Guardian UAV at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif., were completed on Feb. 11 after “a flawless eight-hour flight,” Blue says. The prototype maritime variant, distinguished by a belly-mounted APS-134 SeaVue surveillance radar, is aimed at counternarcotics missions.

With reporting by Anthony L. Velocci Jr. and Joseph C. Anselmo

Photo: General Atomics

20-02-10, 12:06 AM
U.S. Navy Plans Armed UCAS-D Follow-on

Feb 19, 2010

By Bill Sweetman

The U.S. Navy is planning to demonstrate an armed, sensor-equipped, carrier-based unmanned combat aircraft system (UCAS) by 2018, as a follow-on to carrier-suitability and autonomous aerial-refueling demonstrations planned for completion in 2013.

A request for information (RFI) will be released this year, according to Rear Adm. William Shannon, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, speaking Feb. 17 at Aviation Week’s Defense Technology and Requirements conference in Washington.

The program could be worth as much as $2 billion, with major funding starting in Fiscal 2013. The RFI will be open to all manufacturers, and not automatically an extension of Northrop Grumman’s work with the X-47B UCAS-D demonstrator, now undergoing ground tests.

The X-47B is intended to demonstrate the carrier suitability of a stealthy, tailless unmanned aircraft. The follow-on armed demonstrator is expected to lead to a joint Navy/Air Force UCAS program, but the winning team will have to compete for the in-service system, which is a possible replacement for the F/A-18E/F from 2025.

This would represent a second run at a joint UCAS program for the services: the previous J-UCAS effort was split in late 2005, with the Air Force pursuing a larger aircraft and the Navy heading along the path to UCAS-D.

But the Air Force is noncommittal. Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, Air Force military deputy for acquisition, said at the same conference that the service is watching the program but “does not want to do the Air Force version of the Navy platform.”

Shannon, meanwhile, says first flight of the X-47B, originally expected last fall, will not take place until the summer. Issues include software to control the brakes, and overstress in the exhaust system caused by vortex-induced resonance in the curved tailpipe.

Integration of aircraft and ship systems has begun on the USS Lincoln, using a King Air as a surrogate for the X-47B, performing the same procedures and communicating via digital messages. That will be followed this year with tests using an F/A-18 to emulate the X-47B, which is scheduled to make its first carrier landing in late 2011.

Northrop Grumman concept

20-02-10, 12:09 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Eitan Enters Israeli Inventory

Posted by Robert Wall at 2/19/2010 8:26 AM CST

On Sunday, the Israel Air Force will formally enter the Eitan unmanned aircraft - also known as the Heron TP - into its inventory, after a hand over ceremony yesterday. The initial operational capability will not come until next year, though.

Here's a picture of the UAV now in Israeli markings:

[Credit: IDF]

Israel Aerospace Industries developed the Heron TP. For a long time, it was a hush-hush effort, but first flew in 2006 and really came into the public eye in 2007.

System specs for the air vehicle include being powered by a 1,200-hp turboprop engine, and an operating altitude of more than 41,000 ft. while carrying a full payload. MTOW is 5,000 kg. The vehicle has a 26 meter wingspan, IAI says.

20-02-10, 12:27 AM

PICTURE: Germany's first Heron UAV emerges

By Craig Hoyle

Germany is on track to begin operating leased Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1 unmanned air vehicles in Afghanistan in March, with its first personnel having completed training on the system.

The German air force says an initial eight personnel completed their instruction on the Heron in Israel in January. This covered activities such as air vehicle and sensor operation, plus support. The work started late last year, it adds.

To be used in support of Berlin's contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the Heron UAVs will provide near real-time surveillance services from mid-March. The vehicles are being fielded under a one-year lease deal signed with prime contractor Rheinmetall Defence last October.

© Rayk Hähnlein/Rheinmetall Defence

The German air force stood up its first UAV squadron at Jagel air base on 5 February. The site will also house its future fleet of Northrop Grumman/EADS Eurohawk signals intelligence aircraft, due to be delivered from 2011.

With a 16.6m (54.5ft) wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of around 1,150kg (2,540lb), the medium-altitude, long-endurance Heron 1 can fly for over 24h above 30,000ft. Operating range is roughly 400km (216nm), according to the German air force.

Germany is not unique in fielding a Heron 1-based surveillance system in Afghanistan. Versions of the IAI UAV are also being used by the Australian, Canadian and French armed forces.

Germany's deal also includes an option for a two-year extension and is understood to cover the use of three air vehicles and two ground control stations.

Berlin has a longer-term requirement dubbed "Saateg" to acquire a new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAV capability.

20-02-10, 11:48 AM
S. Korea Releases RFP For UCAV Demonstrator

Feb 19, 2010

By Bradley Perrett

South Korea’s technologically ambitious defense ministry aims to test a scaled demonstrator for a stealthy combat drone by 2013, extending the country’s expertise in unmanned aircraft and hedging against cancellation of the KF-X fighter program.

With this project, South Korea will be within 10 years of Britain and Germany in flying substantial development hardware for unmanned combat aircraft. South Korea may be ahead of Japan, which has announced no such development effort.

Korea Aerospace Industries is well placed to win the project, since it has already embarked on company-funded work to acquire technology in this field, going as far as designing a full-scale aircraft it calls the K-UCAV and flying a 20% scale model of it (AW&ST Oct. 26, 2009, p. 42).

The aircraft that the ministry’s defense development agency is asking for will be larger than the model but still smaller than an operational aircraft. The South Korean air force is not known to be seeking a combat drone, and the agency says in its request for proposals that the program is not relevant to any military requirement.

Putting the technology-development cart before the operational-requirement horse is common in South Korea. Technologists in industry and government, especially in the defense development agency , often push for advanced programs in the hope that the military will eventually be pressed into paying for full-scale development and production .

In this latest project, the winning bidder will build two airframes under the project name UCAV Configuration Design Technology Research. The government will supply radar-absorbing material and two engines of an unspecified type.

The project’s objective is to “develop a scaled-down flying demonstrator and ground control equipment to validate core technologies required to develop a low-observable unmanned combat air vehicle,” the agency says.

It is also asking suppliers for one “radar-absorbing structure”—load-bearing airframe parts that can be used in exposed positions, such as wing leading edges and chines. Those parts will presumably be tested on the ground.

The 17-billion-won ($15-million) budget indicates that the aircraft will be larger than the K-UCAV model. Moreover, that money may be only the government’s contribution to the airframe work. In other countries, manufacturers have helped pay for such developments; in South Korea they are often forced to contribute.

Submissions are due by Mar. 23, a preferred supplier will be chosen in June and the aircraft must begin flight-testing by 2013. Testing should be completed in 2014, since the request for proposals says it should be wrapped up 48 months after the approval of the research and development plan, scheduled for August. Spending will peak in 2012.

The demanding schedule suggests the project will rely on preliminary development work that has already been done, possibly K-UCAV, the scale model of which first flew in 2008 and was unveiled publicly at the Seoul Aerospace & Defense Exhibition last October.

The agency is not publishing specifications for the demonstrators, nor does it say what weapons or sensors they will carry, if any.

The request for proposals does not restrict bidding to South Korean manufacturers, but it can be assumed that only local companies will be considered. And there can be just two serious contenders: Korea Aerospace and Korean Air Aerospace, a division of the airline Korean Air whose products include small unmanned aircraft for surveillance.

Korea Aerospace is the favorite not only because of its K-UCAV work. The government has cultivated the company as the national fast-jet specialist, especially with the T-50 supersonic trainer and FA-50 light-attack derivative.

Korea Aerospace was perhaps merely prescient when it spent its own funds on K-UCAV. Executives said in October they did not know when a government program might begin. But it is likely that the company, working hand in glove with the agency, knew an official technology demonstration effort was imminent.

If so, the K-UCAV specification may indicate the characteristics of a full-scale aircraft that the defense ministry’s technologists would like to develop: a gross weight of 4.1 metric tons (8,900 lb.), maximum altitude of 12,000 meters (39,000 ft.), speed of Mach 0.85, and endurance of 5 hr. The K-UCAV would have a 9.1-meter span and 8.4-meter length.

Korea Aerospace fitted a weapons bay in its K-UCAV model and successfully dropped stores from it, but it is not known whether the larger aircraft will be so equipped.

The agency proposes to inspect bidders’ facilities before awarding a contract. One piece of equipment it wants to see is an autoclave, revealing that it expects the winning design to have extensive composite construction.

In pressing ahead with this project, the agency is achieving two unspoken objectives for the South Korean military aerospace technology base.

First, it is diversifying and extending the expertise of engineers working on unmanned aircraft. Their current work includes a competition for an army battlefield reconnaissance drone, for which Korean Air and Korea Aerospace are competing, and a medium-altitude, long-endurance surveillance aircraft operating at up to 15,000 meters . The latter, called MUAV, will be built by Korean Air with help by a foreign company under a 450-billion-won program, local media report.

Beyond that work, the unmanned-system engineers could already look forward to a proposed high-altitude surveillance aircraft, probably a development of the MUAV. The agency has now added a new branch to their work: combat jets.

The agency’s second achievement is to hedge against failure of the KF-X program, which aims at building a Generation-4.5 fighter, perhaps an advanced development of the Eurofighter Typhoon or Boeing F/A-18E/F.

The government is backing KF-X, but the parliament, which voted not to fund it this year, may yet kill it. Even if parliament resumes funding, a decision will be made in 2013 whether to go ahead with full-scale development. The air force could instead buy a foreign aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-35.

If the KF-X dies, another project will be needed to maintain the skills of South Korea’s combat aircraft engineers. Since the drone demonstration program can lay down a technology base on which later work can build, development of an unmanned KF-X successor now looks like an increasingly feasible option.

The South Korean effort appears to be similar in scale and ambition to the BAE Systems Raven, two of which were built. Flights began in 2003, demonstrating automatic flight control of an aerodynamically unstable configuration. The Raven has led to the Taranis, a larger, 8-ton development aircraft due to fly this year and demonstrate fully autonomous systems as well as low-observability features.

In calling for proposals, the defense development agency has broken the drone program into four parts:

•System integration: analysis, design, modeling and simulation, and project management.

•Flying demonstrator: design and integration of the aircraft, including aerodynamics, structure, systems, propulsion, flight control and navigation.

•Ground station: design and integration of the ground station, and fabrication of the ground control and communication equipment.

•Test and evaluation: ground and flight tests.

Separately, an effort by Korean Air to take over Korea Aerospace appears to have died. The takeover looked close last April, when several Korea Aerospace shareholders were discussing disposals of their stakes. But the merger has disappeared from public debate, suggesting that behind the scenes the government has told the parties it wants to keep two competing aerospace manufacturers.

Photo Credit: Bradley Perrett/AW&ST

21-02-10, 10:28 AM
Germany Prepares to Deploy UAVs to Afghanistan


Published: 19 Feb 2010 18:43

BERLIN - With the first German Air Force UAV crews trained in Israel, Germany is preparing to send the first of its Israeli-supplied Heron 1 to Afghanistan by March, Luftwaffe officials said.

The German Air Force's first eight UAV operators completed training in January as aerial vehicle and payload operators. Luftwaffe personnel and German civilian maintainers have received training on the Heron 1 platform in Israel since late 2009.

A product of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Heron 1 was acquired by the Luftwaffe to fulfill an urgent requirement for a MALE UAV capability. The Heron 1 offers an all-weather, day-and-night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability.

Carrying a 500-pound payload, the Heron 1 can conduct missions of up to 24 hours' duration, depending on the particular mission fit.

Payloads include synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and infrared sensors, and a datalink to transmit full-motion video in near-real time.

The Luftwaffe will receive three Heron Is and two ground stations in 2010. The systems are initially being leased from IAI, which is working in conjunction with Germany's Rheinmetall Defence. Germany's Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement selected the Heron 1 ahead of the Global Atomics Predator in 2009. Contract value is described by Rheinmetall as "a significant double-digit million euro amount." The contract will initially run for one year, with an option to extend this by two more years. Under the deal, Rheinmetall provides a complete package of logistics and repair services in the Afghan area of operations.

On Feb. 5, the Luftwaffe officially stood up its first UAV squadron, under Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (Reconnaissance Wing 51) based at Schleswig-Jagel in northern Germany. The same unit and base will accommodate the Euro Hawk HALE UAV, with operational deliveries planned from the third quarter of 2011. Equipped with electronic intelligence equipment, the Euro Hawk is based on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Five Euro Hawks are on order for the Luftwaffe.

To date, the German contingent in Afghanistan has relied on Reconnaissance Wing 51's six Tornado IDS, sent to support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under a March 2007 decision by the German parliament. A Tornado detachment has been operating from Mazar-e Sharif since April 2007.

Heron UAVs are already in operation in Afghanistan with the armed forces of Canada, Australia and France.

22-02-10, 11:39 AM
Photo above: The prototype of Eitan seen comes to a land at the IAF base at Tel Nof. Several of these strategic UAVs have recently been delivered to the new Squadron 210 operating at the base. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense Update

Israel's Third UAV Squadron to Operate 'Strategic UAV'

Israel's Air Force (IAF) has formally accepted today the Eitan ( Heron TP) unmanned aircraft – the largest UAV built in Israel, and the second largest operational UAV in the world. 210 Squadron operating from Tel Nof Air Force base was established specifically for this unique new aircraft. While Eitan is a new aircraft, considered to be among the world's most ophisticated unmanned aircraft, it is answering an operational specification, defined by the IAF over 15 years ago. (more...)

A view of the the unique Gondola fairing that can be added to the Heron TP, rapidly configuring the unmanned aircraft with specific mission packages. The forward payload is a long-range, highly stabilized high-power electro-optical paylaod. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense Update

"The launching of this airplane is another, substantial landmark in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles. From the humble beginning of their development, with initial operational results during the first Lebanon war, the substantial and professional apparatus now accompanies almost any air force operational frame-work" said Major General Ido Nehushtan, Commander in Chief of the Israel Air Force said during the inauguration ceremony.

The IAF cooperated closely with the industry team in developing the aircraft, headed by IAI as the system development and prime ontractor. The aircraft made its maiden flight in June 2006, three years after the official program 'kickoff'.

The aircraft adds significantly to the operational capabilities of the IAF, primarily in long endurance, long-range missions, offering new capabilities in carrying heavy payloads, on higher and longer missions than most contemporary UAVs. The IAF never confirmed the combat use of weapon-carrying UAVs, although such missions using U.S. weapons are performed by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. One of the UAVs built by the Israelis for the U.S. Army – the Hunter, has already been configured to use weapons and is believed to have been operating on combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eitan (Heron TP) can be configured to fly 'basic ISR' missions without the Gondola. Photo: Noam Eshel, defense Update

Whether the Eitan is capable of carrying weapons has not been officially confirmed though an IAF officer briefing on the new aircraft commented, that "Eitan has the potential to introduce new missions profiles and capabilities, as operators gather more experience with the new aircraft". Such missions could include aerial refueling of other UAVs, extending the missions of unmanned aircraft to weeks, when necessary. Potential future missions could also include airborne early warning against missile attack, using electro-optical and electro-magnetic sensors. An extension of the missile-defense mission, could also assume the 'boost phase intercept' task, attempting to destroy ballistic missiles on their ascent phase, when they are most vulnerable. Israel considered this mission of UAVs equipped with air-to-air missiles known as Missile Optimized Anti-Ballistic Missile System (Moab) back in the 1990s, before embarking on the Arrow missile defense system.

Although Eitan has officially entered service this year, this UAV has already contributed its ISR services during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The IAF is currently operating the first batch of aircraft, with more units expected to be delivered after the new system reaches full operational capability.

With maximum takeoff weight of five tons, the turbo-prop powered Eitan can be loaded with multiple payloads and enough fuel for mission endurance exceeding 24 hours, at an altitude over 41,000 ft (above civil aviation flight routes), at ranges exceeding 1,000 km. The top speed at the operational altitude is 200 knots, but the aircraft can also fly slower when required. The length is 15 meters, wing span is 26 meters and height is 3 meters.

Everywhere you look at this aircraft there is something new that hasn't been done before" says an IAF officer briefing Defense Update about the aircraft, adding that the Eitan is designed to carry out a wide range of missions, from those similar to other UAVs, to brand new missions that are exclusive for this vehicle, given its unique combination of range, endurance and payload.

"The aircraft is designed around an 'open architecture', enabling operators efficiently to introduce new systems and payloads without requiring major changes on the platform." An IAI official told Defense Update, "the airframe combines several payloads located throughout the aircraft, in the fuselage and under the wings, and in a removable 'gondola'-shaped fairing, located under the belly and around the center of gravity (CG), enabling rapid reconfiguration of aircraft for specific missions. Eitan can fly without the Gondola, on 'pure ISR' missions, or perform multifarious missions with multiple payloads, as the mission requires. A distinctive payload is the high power electro-optical system, mounted ahead of the nose landing gear, offering unobstructed hemispherical view for the telescopic thermal camera. This highly stabilized payload, unique to the IAF, offers unprecedented long-range and high altitude performance, sofar provided only by fixed wing aircraft."

Unlike multi-mission jet fighters, designed to perform in a wide operational envelope, Eitan was designed to excel in a specific domain – relatively low speed, medium to high altitude, and long endurance. The aerodynamic design selected for the aircraft has matched these attributes – twin tail with large horizontal stabilizer, the large, unswept wing's airfoil and profile, are optimized for cruising at high altitude. The wide fuselage, contributing to body lift, is further adding to extending endurance in cruising speed.

According to IAF personnel, the large payload capacity of Eitan enabled the IAF to equip the aircraft with sophisticated defensive systems, similar to modern combat aircraft. Some of the systems are visible in different locations around the aircraft. The aircraft has built-in features supporting safe operation in controlled airspace, including several video cameras, on the wing and tail, providing wide field of view for 'see and avoid' flight. Other sensors like the Interrogator Friend and Foe (IFF) already introduced in the basic platform, provide part of the functionality required for 'sense and avoid' capability. Both sensors are considered mandatory for future flight certification in civil-controlled airspace, currently being formulated by civil aviation authorities in the U.S., Europe and Israel. Furthermore, the payload reserves available in the aircraft also provide for installation of TCAS systems, if required.

Two different Heron TP 'Eitan' UAVs demonstrating the two configurations - with and without the missionspecific Gondola. Photos: IAI and IAF.

A lower front view of the Heron TP Eitan showing the flat belly, designed to offer large surface for payloads and add in generating body lift. The 'mouse' provides an air intake airflow for cooling. Photo: IAF

22-02-10, 12:06 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalPoland picks Aeronautics' Aerostar for urgent UAV deal

By Bartosz Glowacki

Poland has selected Aeronautics Defense Systems to meet an urgent requirement to provide unmanned air vehicles for reconnaissance and surveillance in Afghanistan.

Defence minister Bogdan Klich announced the selection of the Israeli company's Aerostar design under a contract worth 89 million zlotys ($30 million). The model was selected after a competition with Elbit Systems' Hermes 450 and Israel Aerospace Industries' Searcher III.

Aeronautics will deliver two Aerostar systems under the deal. Each will comprise four air vehicles, two ground control stations and autonomous take-off and landing equipment.

© Aeronautics Defense Systems

The first system should be deployed to Afghanistan's Ghazni province within the next seven months, the defence ministry says, with the other to be used for training in Poland.

Warsaw says the Aerostar UAV should deliver an endurance of 10h, and have an operating range of at least 200km (108nm). Aeronautics meanwhile expects to fly a larger C-model version for the first time this month, with this having a 300kg (660lb) maximum take-off weight and an 80kg payload. Endurance will be up to 30h, it says.

Polish personnel already use Aeronautics Orbiter mini-UAVs in Afghanistan and will begin operating two General Atomics MQ-1 Predators from April under a lease agreement with the USA.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry has signed a 313 million zlotys contract to acquire five secondhand transport helicopters from Metalexport-S.

© Polish defence ministry
Polish forces already operate the Mi-17 in Afghanistan

Built between 1992 and 1995, the four Mi-17-1Vs and one Mi-172 will be overhauled at Russia's Ulan Ude plant and then receive new communication, navigation and self-protection equipment at Poland's WZL-1 military aviation works in Lodz for another 40 million zlotys. To be deployed from late 2010, the aircraft are expected to remain in service for 20 years.

Additional reporting by Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv and Grzegorz Sobczak in Warsaw

23-02-10, 02:06 AM
Wonder if that vert stab camera on the Heron is a perminent fixture or part of some test kit?

25-02-10, 11:54 PM
One would think it permanent to assist the pilot on the ground under landing conditions for example.................

25-02-10, 11:56 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Northrop Flies Bigger Bat

Posted by Graham Warwick at 2/25/2010 10:25 AM CST

Northrop Grumman has flown a slightly bigger version of the Bat flying-wing unmanned aircraft, based on the Killerbee design acquired from Swift Engineering. The new Bat-12 has a 12ft span, redesigned winglets and a Hirth engine with five-blade propeller.

Photos: Northrop Grumman

The original KillerBee KB-4 configuration acquired and flown by Northrop as the Bat has a 10ft span, downturned wingtips and a two-blade propeller. Both the 10ft and 12ft models have been launched using the rail launcher for the US Army's AAI Shadow tactical UAV.

Northrop says the Bat has been flown with a dual-payload micro-gimbal from Cloud Cap Technology, a moving-target indicator from Sentient Vision Systems, a short-wave infrared camera from Goodrich and ImSAR's Nano-SAR-B miniature synthetic-aperture radar.

26-02-10, 02:25 AM
One would think it permanent to assist the pilot on the ground under landing conditions for example.................

yeah thats what i was thinking, would be rather handy to have it there

26-02-10, 11:23 PM
Warships International Fleet Review: Unmanned Systems Could Help Fill “Fighter Gap”

Thursday February 25th 2010, 8:30 pm

X-47. Aviation Week photo.


The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are running out of fighters. Heavy wear and tear over nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has depleted the two services’ combined fighter force. Purchases of new planes have been delayed by controversial planning decisions. As a result, U.S. maritime forces operate at elevated risk. Robotic systems could help mitigate this risk, but the Navy has resisted adopting pilot-less aircraft.

The Navy and Marines together operate some 1,000 fighters, accounting for around a third of all U.S. tactical aircraft. Navy and Marine squadrons work closely to meet the needs of both services. The Navy supplies each of its 10 carrier air wings with 44 strike-fighters, split between early-1990s-vintage, single-seat Boeing F/A-18A and C-model Hornets and newer F/A-18E/Fs. Occasionally, Marine Corps F/A-18As and Cs fill in for some of the Navy jets on carrier decks. The Marines also operate Boeing AV-8B Harriers from Navy amphibious assault ships and reconnaissance-optimized F/A-18Ds from shore bases.

When training aircraft and those in deep maintenance are removed from the count, the Navy and Marines are currently short by around 50 aircraft, according to service and Congressional reports. This so-called “fighter gap” could deepen to an estimated 125 aircraft by 2017 before the new Lockheed Martin F-35 enters service in large numbers. The F-35 program is meant to deliver more than 2,500 aircraft to U.S. forces, at a cost of around $330 billion.

The naval fighter gap first appeared around 2006, when the Marines announced they would temporarily decommission two fighter squadrons, owing to unexpected fatigue issues with some F/A-18Ds and AV-8Bs. The Hornets, in particular, were worn out from repeated deployments to western Iraq, where the two-seat jets were in high demand for forward air-control missions. During a seven-month deployment to Iraq, an F/A-18D squadron might fly four times as many hours as a squadron back in the U.S. The Marines hope to recommission the squadrons once F-35s are available.

Navy squadrons have also been heavily-tasked over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Navy and Marines together plan to buy 680 F-35s, divided between the conventional F-35C and the short-takeoff, vertical-landing F-35B model. The F-35Cs will replace the oldest Navy F/A-18s while the F-35Bs replace Marine jets. The first F-35s — Marine B models — are slated to enter service in 2012.

“The bottom line is, there are only so many airplanes, and the ones we fly are no longer being built, so it’s extremely important to us that we maintain a Fiscal [Year] 2012 Initial Operational Capability for the F-35B,” Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, the Marines’ top aviation officer, said in 2007. Two years later, development of the F-35 — and the B version, in particular — is behind schedule. The F-35 test force completed just ten percent of its planned 317 sorties for 2009. This summer, a Pentagon audit estimated the F-35 would be two years late and billions of dollars over-budget.

To help the Navy through the widening fighter gap, Congress doubled F/A-18E/F production for 2010, to 18 copies. More new Hornets could follow. Some analysts have proposed the Navy advance plans for unmanned fighters, as another alternative to the F-35. Robotic fighters might do more than just fill the fighter gap. They could represent a “radical improvement in the combat effectiveness of carrier-based aircraft, and, by extension, the aircraft carrier,” according to a 2008 report by Thomas Ehrhard and Bob Work, both analysts with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. In 2009, Work became a Navy under-secretary.

In 2007, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $640-million contract for the development of a no-frills, naval Unmanned Combat Air System. The UCAS-D, designated X-47 by the Navy, is a wedge-shaped, jet-powered, pilotless aircraft designed for carrier operations. Carrier tests are planned for 2011. The six-year development, as currently programmed, does not include any weapons carriage, inflight-refueling or other “operational” testing. Northrop Grumman officials made it clear that the X-47 is capable of more than the Navy is asking of it. The first X-47 completed production in December 2008.

In their report, Ehrhard and Work stressed that X-47 development could be accelerated to field the Navy’s next long-range bomber. Future versions could also handle air-defense missions, they proposed. In Ehrhard’s and Work’s vision, the X-47 could deliver more firepower over greater range and with fewer losses than the F-35 — and could do it sooner, and potentially more cheaply. The biggest obstacle is cultural. “The Navy is rather ambivalent toward unmanned aircraft in general, and carrier-based unmanned aircraft in particular,” they wrote. The U.S. Air Force does not share this ambivalence. In 2010, the Air Force will buy more armed drone aircraft than it buys fighters.

Even without the X-47, the Navy has options for bridging the fighter gap. F/A-18E/F production could continue until the F-35 is ready. But the Marines don’t fly the E- and F-model Hornet, and have no concept of operations for drone fighters. Realistically, the Marines can only wait for the F-35, while their existing fighter force continues wasting away.

26-02-10, 11:34 PM

February 24, 2010

Coast Guard Makes Plans for Unmanned Aircraft

Customs and Border Protection's new Guardian UAV with maritime radar at bottom rear of fuselage. CBP photo

The U.S. Coast Guard isn’t quite ready to start spending money again on unmanned aircraft.

Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant, says his people are working on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – a sister Homeland Security Department agency – as well as the U.S. Navy.

The Coast Guard and CBP formed a Joint Program Office in 2008 to explore common requirements for a land-based maritime patrol UAS.

In December, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) unveiled a Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle – called the Guardian – equipped with a Raytheon maritime radar system that can monitor surface ships from miles away. The radar is being tested this Spring. “We need to kind of see how that operates before we make a decision on how far to go in getting into a program of record and a production line with CBP.”

He also said the Coast Guard was “drafting behind the Navy” in its development of Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout unmanned helicopter as a shipborne vertical take off and landing UAV.

The Coast Guard hads planned to use the Textron Eagle Eye VUAV to extend the maritime patrolling reach of its new National Security Cutters, but “we thought there was a lot of technical risks associated” with that tilt rotor VUAV and the project was canceled, Allen says.

Instead, the Coast Guard, which the Obama administration is downsizing slightly in its 2011 budget request, is happy to let the Navy take the lead in testing Fire Scout’s radar and ship interfacing. “We’re looking, at some point in the future, at the possibility of taking Fire Scout and doing interface testing with the National Security Cutter,” Allen says.

Eventually, he adds, the Coast Guard would like to get into high altitude, wide area surveillance with a UAS like Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk. But Allen, whose four-year term as commandant ends in May, says the Coast Guard isn’t ready to own one because “of the lack of critical mass we have to support those kinds of systems.”

27-02-10, 12:01 AM
Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout Deploys Unmanned Ground Vehicles

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.; issued February 25, 2010)

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation's Fire Scout Vertical Unmanned Aircraft System (VUAS) demonstrated how the U.S. Army and other land forces could rely on its ability to ferry unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and other logistics items into combat zones during the Army's recent Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Fort Benning, Ga.

Fire Scout demonstrated how the soldier can rely on its multifunctional capability for force protection, reconnaissance surveillance target acquisition (RSTA) and communications relay that only a VUAS of its caliber can provide.

During the AEWE, Fire Scout flew to a named area of interest, surveyed the area to ensure it was clear, and landed autonomously within its pre-planned landing point. When Fire Scout's on-board skid sensors detected contact with the ground, a command was sent to release the unmanned ground vehicle. Seconds later, Fire Scout ascended and then loitered at a higher altitude to observe and provide a relay for commands between the UGV and its controller.

"Use of an unmanned system to carry other unmanned systems into battle could improve the speed of operations while protecting U.S. lives," said Al Nikolaus, program manager of land-based Fire Scout at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "This demonstration provides another example of Fire Scout's maturity, reliability, flexibility, and its ability to operate successfully with currently deployed systems."

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.


28-02-10, 08:54 AM
02/26/10 05:48 PM ET

U.S. Air Force Set To Begin X-51 Hypersonic Flight Tests

By Turner Brinton

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is gearing up for the first of four planned test flights of a hypersonic aircraft designed to operate for much longer durations and cover far greater distances than previous platforms of its type.

The maiden flight of the X-51 Waverider aircraft — the first U.S. hypersonic vehicle to fly in six years — is scheduled to take place later in March. Boeing Defense, Space & Security Systems of St. Louis has been developing the aircraft since 2003 on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The missile-shaped X-51 will be carried aloft under the wing of a B-52 bomber, Joe Vogel, Boeing’s director of hypersonics, said in a Feb. 22 interview. It will be released from the jet over the Pacific Ocean and drop for four seconds until its rocket motor ignites and accelerates it to about 5,800 kilometers per hour, just shy of the widely accepted start of hypersonic flight at Mach 5, or about 6,100 kilometers per hour. At that point, its air-breathing scramjet — or supersonic combustion ramjet — engine, built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., will kick in, shooting the craft to Mach 6, or more than 7,400 kilometers per hour.

Grand plans for hypersonic vehicles have been around for decades, but their goals were often unrealistic and not matched by budgets, resulting in failure. The approach on X-51 has been to demonstrate the technologies that could one day enable things like single-stage-to-orbit vehicles.

“Theoretically you can probably get there someday, but trying to do it all at once with not enough money is very, very challenging,” Vogel said.

Potential applications for hypersonic technology are superfast airplanes, missiles and reusable space launch vehicles, Vogel said. While the technology is not ready to ferry passengers from New York to Los Angeles in under an hour, such a scenario is not all that far-fetched, Vogel said. The upcoming demonstrations should show that the technology could be used in a next-generation missile program, he said.

Boeing has 42 people working on the X-51 program, down from a peak of about 90 people in 2007. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s team peaked around 60 people and is now down to nine people, Vogel said.

Boeing also built the United States’ previous hypersonic flight demonstrator, the X-43A, on behalf of NASA. The X-43A program made two successful flights in 2004: an 11-second flight that reached Mach 7, and a 10-second flight that approached Mach 10 and set a new record for fastest flight by a jet-powered aircraft. Both vehicles were designed to plummet into the ocean and be destroyed.

Scramjet engines like those on the X-43A and X-51 must be accelerated to very high speeds to deliver compressed air to their combustion chambers. Both craft rely on rocket propulsion to create this initial speed.

While the X-51 will not reach the top speed of its predecessor, it is intended to demonstrate more operationally realistic technologies, Vogel said. Whereas the X-43A used a highly energetic hydrogen fuel, the X-51 uses the same JP-7 fuel that powered the SR-71 surveillance aircraft, and its engine could be adapted to use other hydrocarbon-based fuels, he said. The X-51 is expected to fly about 900 kilometers under jet power in about five minutes, 30 times longer in duration than the X-43A flights.

Boeing has built four X-51 aircraft for the upcoming test campaign. Though none will be recovered after its test flight, their liquid-cooled scramjet engines have shown in ground testing to be very durable, Vogel said. The X-43A engine was not actively cooled and was not intended for reuse.

“This [the X-51] engine has been tested extensively in the laboratory, and it’s come out and been reused multiple times,” Vogel said. “In theory, if we had more time and more money and more space in the vehicle, we probably would have put a recovery system into it. Future vehicles could have a recovery system, and we have started looking at ways to recover the engine.”

The government does not currently plan to support the X-51 program beyond the four identical flight tests, which should be complete by the fall, Vogel said. Boeing has proposed a next phase of the program to the government, but he declined to be specific.

Since 2003 the government has spent about $250 million on the X-51 program, Vogel said. Air Force Research Laboratory spokesman Derek Kaufman was unable to provide funding details by press time.

28-02-10, 08:59 AM
New Predator Variants, New UAV Roles

Feb 27, 2010

By Guy Norris
Los Angeles

The two latest variants of the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle for the U.S. Army and Customs and Border Protection Service will move closer to initial deployment following the completion of key tests in California this month.

Weapons tests of the Army’s MQ-1C Sky Warrior, a heavily modified derivative of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) Predator A, were successfully completed following the last live firings of nine Hellfire P+ missiles. GA-ASI Chairman and CEO Neal Blue says a post-test review identified “minor technical and desired fixes,” adding that an “ updated software release will be verification-tested in March from our El Mirage flight operations facility.”

The MQ-1C, soon to be redesignated the Gray Eagle —currently also known as the Army’s extended range/multipurpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft system —is being fast-tracked into service with newly formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blue says the updated release will be used to support soldier training prior to a limited user test scheduled for May , and subsequent fielding slated for July .

The weapons tests, which began at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake in late November, are part of preparations to arm aircraft for a second quick-reaction unit, QRC-2. The first QRC unit was created during Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance surge and is deployed in Iraq with four unarmed aircraft providing long-endurance, wide-area reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and communications relay capability.

GA-ASI says it also “preparing proposals” to support low-rate initial production of the MQ-1C following the Army’s Feb. 2 announcement that the UAV had successfully completed the Milestone C review. The San Diego-based manufacturer now expects a contract award in March for 26 aircraft to be delivered in 2012.

Over-water developmental tests of the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) first Guardian UAV at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif., were completed on Feb. 11 after “a flawless 8-hr. flight” says Blue. “In light of this success, all back-up flights previously scheduled have been canceled and GA-ASI crews are currently preparing the aircraft for transit to Florida, with an expected arrival date of Feb. 22 and first-flight date of Feb. 25,” he says.

The prototype maritime variant, distinguished by a belly-mounted APS-134 SeaVue surveillance radar, is aimed at drug traffic-monitoring. The radar provides inverse synthetic aperture and synthetic aperture imaging as well as weather and target detection and search-and-rescue transponder modes. The UAV will be used initially by CBP in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard to test its reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting acquisition capabilities in coastal waters. CBP says the Guardian will eventually support joint counter-narcotics operations against drug-running “fast boats” and difficult-to-detect semi-submersible craft.

With a second vehicle due for delivery for trials next month, GA-ASI is optimistic additional Guardian systems can follow the initial deployment. CBP has a strategic plan for up to 18 Predator-type vehicles, of which at least six will be for maritime missions.

With Anthony L. Velocci, Jr., and Joseph C. Anselmo in Poway, Calif.

Photo: General Atomics

28-02-10, 02:07 PM
COMBAT GENERATION The evolving military

Combat Generation: Drone operators climb on winds of change in the Air Force

By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The question, scrawled on a Pentagon whiteboard last fall, captured the strange and difficult moment facing the Air Force.

"Why does the country need an independent Air Force?" the senior civilian assistant to Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the service's chief of staff, had written. For the first time in the 62-year history of the Air Force, the answer isn't entirely clear.

The Air Force's identity crisis is one of many ways that a decade of intense and unrelenting combat is reshaping the U.S. military and redefining the American way of war. The battle against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq has created an insatiable demand for the once-lowly drone, elevating the importance of the officers who fly them.

These new earthbound aviators are redefining what it means to be a modern air warrior and forcing an emotional debate within the Air Force over the very meaning of valor in combat.

Since its founding, the Air Force has existed primarily to support its daring and chivalrous fighter and bomber pilots. Even as they are being displaced by new technology, these traditional pilots are fighting to retain control over the Air Force and its culture and traditions.

The clash between the old and new Air Force was especially apparent in the aftermath of the 2006 strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq.

Predator crews spent more than 630 hours searching for Zarqawi and his associates before they tracked him to a small farm northeast of Baghdad.

Minutes later, an F-16 fighter jet, streaking through the sky, released a 500-pound bomb that locked onto a targeting laser and killed Zarqawi.

The F-16 pilot, who faced no real threat from the lightly armed insurgents on the ground, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the same honor bestowed on Charles Lindbergh for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Predator pilots, who flew their planes from an Air Force base outside Las Vegas, received a thank-you note from a three-star general based in the Middle East. Senior Air Force officials concluded that even though the Predator crews were flying combat missions, they weren't actually in combat.

Four years later, the Air Force still hasn't come up with a way to recognize the Predator's contributions in Afghanistan and Iraq. "There is no valor in flying a remotely piloted aircraft. I get it," said Col. Luther "Trey" Turner, a former fighter pilot who has flown Predators since 2003. "But there needs to be an award to recognize crews for combat missions."

The revolution

It is the job of Schwartz, the Air Force's top general and a onetime cargo pilot, to mediate between the old and new pilot tribes. In August 2008, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tapped him to lead the service, the first chief of staff in Air Force history without a fighter or bomber pedigree, reflecting Gates's frustration with the service's old guard.

A quiet and introspective leader, Schwartz has turned his attention to dismantling the Air Force's rigid class system. At the top of the traditional hierarchy are fighter pilots. Beneath them are bomber, tanker and cargo pilots. At the bottom are the officers who keep aircraft flying and satellites orbiting in space.

Schwartz has also pushed to broaden the Air Force's definition of its core missions beyond strategic bombing and control of the skies. New on his list: providing surveillance imagery to ground troops waging counterinsurgencies. Today, the Air Force is flying 40 round-the-clock patrols each day with its Predator and Reaper unmanned planes, an eightfold increase over 2004.

"This is our year to look up and out . . . to ask big questions," Schwartz said in an interview. "Who are we? What are we doing for the nation's defense? . . . Where is this grand institution headed?"

One answer to those questions is taking shape at Creech Air Force Base, an hour's drive from Las Vegas, where the Air Force launched a trial program to train a first-ever group of officers with no aviation background or training to fly the Predator. Before the trial program, virtually all of the Air Force's Predator and Reaper pilots began their careers flying fighter jets, bombers or cargo aircraft and were temporarily assigned to three-year tours as drone pilots.

By 2007, the Air Force started to realize that it didn't have enough traditional pilots to meet the growing demand from field commanders for Predators and Reapers. When Gates pressed for an expedited program to train officers without an aviation background to fly drones, the Air Force initially resisted. Only a fully trained pilot could be trusted to maneuver an unmanned aircraft and drop bombs, some officials maintained.

At the rate the Air Force was moving, it would have needed a decade to meet battlefield demand. Schwartz changed the policy.

"We had a math problem that quickly led to a philosophical discussion about whether we could create a new type of pilot," said Maj. Gen. Marke F. Gibson, the director of Air Force operations and training. With Schwartz's backing, Gibson crafted a nine-month training program for officers from non-flying backgrounds, including deskbound airmen, military police officers and "missiliers."

The crash program has been controversial, particularly among traditional pilots, who typically undergo two years of training. "We are creating the equivalent of a puppy mill," complained one fighter pilot.

One of eight initial trainees was Capt. Steve Petrizzo, who joined the Air Force in 2003 hoping to fly F-16s. He was too nearsighted to fly planes, so the Air Force assigned him to a nuclear-missile base where he manned a concrete capsule 50 feet below ground, waiting for the order to launch.

Petrizzo leapt at the chance to fly the Predator. "I wanted to be in the fight," he said.

His first six months of training beginning in early 2009 focused on the basics of flying. The last few months of instruction were spent in a ground control station maneuvering a simulated Predator through video-game reproductions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

One day last summer, inside the cramped and aggressively air-conditioned ground control station, the tension between the old and new Air Force was obvious. Maj. Andy Bright, an F-15 pilot turned Predator instructor, was coaching Petrizzo through the simulations.

In one scenario, Petrizzo followed a squad of soldiers through a village. Suddenly, the troops were hit with a blast of sniper fire and sprinted for cover. Although Petrizzo quickly spotted the insurgent, it took him almost five minutes to maneuver his plane into a spot where he could get off a shot that wouldn't also spray the soldiers or nearby civilians with shrapnel.

Those few minutes amounted to an eternity to soldiers under fire. Bright counseled Petrizzo to think more about how he positioned his plane. "Flying a Predator is like a chess game," he said. "Because you have a God's-eye perspective, you need to think a few moves ahead."

Four hours and several ambushes later, Petrizzo and Bright sat across from each other in a conference room for a mission debriefing. Bright was professional. But it was clear that he had doubts that any officer could be ready to fly combat missions after just nine months of training. "I have to spend a lot of time with them on the very basics," Bright said of Petrizzo and his fellow officers in the program. "They are still learning how to maneuver a plane."

The graduation ceremony for Petrizzo and his classmates raised a new set of questions for the Air Force: Should the new graduates wear the same wings as traditional pilots? Did they qualify for extra flight pay? Should they even be called pilots?

Schwartz decided the graduates were pilots. Even though they didn't leave the ground, they would receive flight pay. On the day of the ceremony, the general flew in from the Pentagon to pin a specially designed set of wings on each of the trainee's uniforms. The traditional shield at the center of their wings was festooned with lightning bolts to signify the satellite signal that connects the ground-based pilots to their planes.

"You are part of the major new Air Force development of the decade," Schwartz told the graduates.

A few days later, Petrizzo and his classmates were flying missions over Afghanistan.

Top-down changes

Lasting cultural change won't take place in the Air Force until officers who serve in these new fields rise to the top ranks, which are still dominated by fighter pilots.

Because of the huge demand for drones, the pilots who fly Predators and Reapers aren't being allowed to leave bases such as Creech for other assignments that would give them the experience they need to ascend to higher ranks. Today, there are about a dozen officers with experience flying Predators and Reapers on the Air Force staff in the Pentagon, compared with more than 100 fighter pilots.

"My guys understand this mission is important," one squadron commander told Schwartz on a visit to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in late January. "But for them this tour is never-ending."

Some senior Predator and Reaper commanders are leaving the military because they probably won't make general. In a few weeks, Col. Eric Mathewson, who has more experience with unmanned aircraft than just about any other officer in the Air Force, will retire after 26 years.

The former F-15 pilot started working with the Predators in 2000 after he hurt his back and was unable to fly. As a squadron commander during a bloody 15-hour battle in eastern Afghanistan in 2002, Mathewson saw his Predators outperform the Air Force's most advanced fighter jets.

Dug-in Taliban insurgents had surrounded a dozen U.S. troops who were fighting for their lives. F-15s and F-16s screamed overhead. But the fast-moving planes couldn't get off a clean shot at the enemy's main bunker without also wounding the American troops.

Army commanders refused to bring in vulnerable helicopters to evacuate the dead and wounded until an enemy machine-gun nest was destroyed.

Crouched behind a cluster of boulders, the Army Ranger platoon leader radioed that one of his soldiers was bleeding to death in the snow. He needed help fast.

A pilot from Mathewson's squadron at Creech Air Force base guided his drone over the Ranger position. The Predator had never been used in a hot battle to support ground troops, and the Air Force controller embedded with the Rangers was hesitant to let it fire.

To prove its accuracy, the Predator crew launched one of its two Hellfire missiles at an empty hilltop. The hit was accurate, but it left the drone with only one missile. The pilot steadied his plane and squeezed the "pickle" button on his stick, setting loose his last missile and obliterating the Taliban machine-gun nest. "We would have all died without the Predator," the controller recalled months later to Air Force officials.

A few months after the battle, Mathewson unsuccessfully nominated several of his airmen for the Distinguished Flying Cross -- an early effort to win medal recognition for Predator crews.

Blocked from rewarding his troops with traditional battlefield honors, Mathewson searched for other ways to build camaraderie among his pilots and camera operators. Shortly after he arrived at Creech for his second Predator tour in 2006, Mathewson wrote a new mission statement for his squadrons.

"Most mission statements are long, complicated and italicized," he said. "Mine was three words: "Kill [Expletive] Heads." His troops shortened it further to "KFH" and painted it on the cluster of trailers that served as their makeshift headquarters. They emblazoned KFH on their unit letterhead. Everyone in the unit carried a poker chip bearing the three letters.

"It reminded us that our job was all about the combat and doing things right," Mathewson said.

After Creech, the Air Force sent Mathewson to the Pentagon, where he spent most of 2009 drafting the service's road map for developing remotely piloted aircraft through 2047.

The plan that Mathewson produced for the Air Force envisions unmanned planes not only providing surveillance and striking targets, but also hauling cargo around the world. Instead of flying just one plane, a single pilot would probably control as many as four or five planes simultaneously. "If I am doing a surveillance mission where the plane is literally just staring at the ground or at a road for eight or ten hours, I don't need a pilot actively controlling the plane," he said. "So maybe I have a squadron of 40 aircraft but I only have four or five people monitoring them." The Air Force and Mathewson have already demonstrated in training that one pilot can fly as many as four Predators.

Col. David Sullivan, who commanded a Predator squadron at Creech, describes Mathewson as one of the Air Force's "visionaries."

The next generation of unmanned planes is likely to demand even greater changes from the Air Force, Mathewson said. The craft will require new kinds of organizations, new types of bases and new kinds of officers who will never peer through a fighter-jet canopy in search of the enemy. Old notions of valor are likely to disappear.

A decade of drone combat has already led Mathewson to adjust his definition of the word, which is a part of almost every combat award citation. "Valor to me is not risking your life," he said. "Valor is doing what is right. Valor is about your motivations and the ends that you seek. It is doing what is right for the right reasons. That to me is valor."

02-03-10, 01:43 AM
Aurora 'Pay per View' Craft Support Special Forces at Rosewell

Interesting, I'd have thought this a business opportunity for a number of countries...........?

Aurora Flight Sciences has completed the first 30 hours ' pay-per-view' employing the new Diamond DA42M twin-engine long endurance aircraft configured as a surrogate UAV system. The aircraft supported the MATRIX International Security Training & Intelligence Center (MISTIC), a Roswell, NM based training facility serving special forces teams. Flying nightly missions over a 6 day period, the DA-42M provided aerial surveillance products to the ground teams, representing similar services provided by unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan. The DA42M is equipped with mission payload consisting the FLIR SYSTEMS Star Safire III and the L3 West Communication CMDL Data Link.

02-03-10, 04:11 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalUAV pioneer unveils new design for long-endurance VTOL aircraft

By Stephen Trimble

Tad McGeer, an unmanned aircraft pioneer who designed the Aerosonde and ScanEagle, has now unveiled a vertical take-off and landing, long-endurance aircraft in the same size class called Flexrotor.

The 19kg (42lb) Flexrotor is designed to challenge the ScanEagle for the commercial and military surveillance markets, says McGeer, president of Washington-based start-up Aerovel. McGeer's goal is to dramatically reduce the cost of long-endurance aircraft, which he believes remains uncompetitive with even short-range manned aircraft for the same missions.

The Aerosonde and ScanEagle both required catapults for launch, and the latter used a patented SkyHook for recovery. Although the crane offered more convenience than the Aerosonde's need for a runway, both aircraft required carrying and operating large and heavy launch and recovery equipment.

McGeer has designed the gasoline-fuelled Flexrotor with VTOL capability to simplify and reduce the cost of launch and recovery. The system includes an automated turnaround system, which retrieves, parks, refuels and launches the aircraft by itself, he says.

The V-tailed Flexrotor takes off and lands in a nose-up attitude that recalls tailsitter designs, although the tail never touches the ground. A roughly 3m (10ft)-span wing provides lift in forward flight. In hover, the Flexrotor's oversized propeller becomes a rotor. Meanwhile, wing-tip thrusters are deployed to provide an anti-torque force.

A 1kg payload suitable for imaging or geomagnetic surveying is stowed in a non-rotating nose. For the surveying application, the system should allow a single operator to control 10 aircraft at the same time, he says.

McGeer declines to reveal details about the Flexrotor's base station while a patent application is pending.

He plans to launch flight-testing on a testbed in mid-2010. A transoceanic flight demonstration is scheduled in two years, with production beginning in late 2012.

In the early 1990s, McGeer co-founded Insitu, and developed first the Aerosonde and then the ScanEagle. AAI has since bought the rights to the Aerosonde, and Boeing has acquired Insitu with the ScanEagle.

Meanwhile, McGeer created Aerovel four years ago using private funding as well as small business grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research.

02-03-10, 02:11 PM
Global Hawk Unmanned Reconnaissance Aircraft Makes History with First Roundtrip Flight from Northrop Grumman's Palmdale Facility

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.; issued March 1, 2010)

PALMDALE, Calif. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation's RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) made aviation history Feb. 2 when it successfully completed its first roundtrip flight from the company's Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing facility. AF-20, a Block 30 Global Hawk built for the U.S. Air Force, performed the historic mission, soaring at altitudes of 58,300 feet for approximately four hours and 18 minutes.

"This was the first time ever that the same Global Hawk has taken off and landed in a single mission from Palmdale, heralding a new era of flights in and out of the facility," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of High-Altitude, Long-Endurance systems. "It's also a huge leap forward for the site as we achieve full production acceptance activities and direct deliveries to the aircraft's main operating base at Beale Air Force Base, Calif."

AF-20 is the eighth consecutive production Global Hawk to complete its operational check flight on the first attempt. The mission also marked the first time the sixth Air Force mission control element and a King Air chase aircraft were utilized.

Prior to this flight, two Global Hawks, AF-12 and AF-16, simultaneously flew historic missions on Dec. 14, 2009. AF-12, one of two Block 20 aircraft to be modified with the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) Joint Urgent Operation Need (JUON) system payload, became the first UAS to land at Palmdale. At the same time, the AF-16 aircraft, which will be equipped with an airborne signals intelligence payload, became the first Block 30 to fly out of Beale Air Force Base, where it is currently being used for training and for initial operational test and evaluation later this year.

Part of the Air Force's Objective Gateway program, BACN is an airborne gateway and communications relay system that enables warfighters to rapidly share data and information gathered by multiple users across multiple dissimilar systems present within the battlefield," said Guerra. "It is the top urgent operational need requested by field commanders and scheduled for deployment by the end of this year."

AF-16 was first delivered to Beale Air Force Base on Nov. 24, 2009, after completing months of development flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and receiving a military airworthiness certification from the Air Force. Since then, two additional Block 30 aircraft have been delivered to Beale Air Force Base, with all three planned for deployment later this year in support of overseas contingency operations. To date, 21 production Global Hawks have been delivered to the Air Force and other customers.

"Logging more than 30,000 combat hours since its first deployment nine years ago, Global Hawk is a highly sought after intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system in theater," said Steve Amburgey, Global Hawk program director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "Demonstrating its versatility and persistence, it was recently used for disaster relief support in Haiti where it provided more than 3,600 images of affected areas."

Northrop Grumman Corporation is the prime contractor on both the Global Hawk and BACN programs. The principal Global Hawk industry team includes: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport, West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City (communication system); Raytheon Company, Waltham, Mass. (ground station); Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas (wing).

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.


02-03-10, 04:03 PM
PHOTO: War paint for Phantom Ray

By Stephen Trimble on March 2, 2010 12:32 AM

Five years ago, the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 dueled for US Air Force and Navy contracts worth billions of dollars under the long-defunct joint unmanned combat air systems (J-UCAS) program.

The J-UCAS program is dead but the picture above shows how the X-45/X-47 competition lives on.

Boeing has released a new photo showing the Phantom Ray -- a company-funded descendant of J-UCAS. The unmanned demonstrator is scheduled to begin a series of 10 test flights in December.

Phantom Ray is designed to carry a 4,500lb payload in two internal bays, with the option of two 2,000lb JDAMs or an intelligence sensor (either a synthetic aperture radar or electro-optical/infrared). The aircraft could be applied to a variety of different requirements, Daryl Davis, president of Boeing advanced systems, told reporters. A scaled-up and optionally-manned version could be offered for the US Air Force's long-range strike requirement. The demonstrator above might provide the USAF a replacement for the Predator/Reaper family, he says.

Meanwhile, the other former J-UCAS competitor is also expected to enter flight test in December. Northrop's X-47B has a contract worth more than $1 billion to demonstrate that a stealthy, tailless planform can land autonomously on a carrier deck. The X-47B will also participate in autonomous air refeuling trials.

Boeing also has submitted the Phantom Ray to the Department of Defense as a candidate for demonstrating that a unmanned air vehicle can be refueled in-flight, Davis says.

If anything, maybe it means the billions of dollars spent on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's series of J-UCAS in the first half of the last decade won't be wasted after all.

03-03-10, 01:41 AM
Boeing Bullish On Phantom Ray

Mar 2, 2010

By Amy Butler

Boeing officials plan to begin taxi tests on the company’s Phantom Ray demonstrator in July, a slight delay from earlier plans, but first flight is still targeted for December 2010, according Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president.

Phantom Ray is a revived version of the defunct X-45C program. It is fully funded by Phantom Works and aimed to get Boeing designers and engineers working on unmanned combat system technology and aeronautical design elements that could be applicable to a number of future Pentagon acquisitions, including the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned MQ-X and Long-Range Strike program and the Navy’s F/A-XX future strike aircraft.

The goal is first to conduct flight worthiness tests for Phantom Ray and then enter a second phase to expand the flight envelope and, potentially, conduct automated aerial refueling trials, electronic warfare or other tests, Davis says.

The stealthy, flying wing design will be powered by a single modified General Electric F404-GE-102D engine and is designed to carry about 4,500 pounds of payload roughly 1,000 nautical miles round trip without refueling.

Availability of the stealthy exhaust system is what prompted a slight delay to the taxi tests, which were to occur in the spring. The exhaust system was needed elsewhere for a classified Defense Dept. test effort, Davis said. “That test overran its period of performance slightly and so we rewickered some things,” Davis said. “The test we were doing was not related to anything related to Long-Range Strike. It was a technology test for reliability, maintainability, durability kinds of things.”

Proprietary data on the design of the exhaust system is jointly owned by Boeing and General Electric. Davis says the exhaust system has been delivered back to St. Louis for integration onto Phantom Ray and the engine is expected in the next two months.

As the company moves forward with Phantom Ray, it appears a high-profile partnership with Lockheed Martin under a 2008 teaming agreement has stalled. The two opted to team up as a foil to Northrop Grumman, which has its stealthy B-2 and X-47 in hand.

At the time, it was widely thought that Lockheed Martin and Boeing were lagging far behind Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, maker of the Predator and Reaper families, in unmanned aircraft and in technologies that could be applied to a new bomber. Now, however, Lockheed’s work on the formerly classified RQ-170 has been exposed, revealing that the company has legs in this area. And Boeing has begun to pursue flight testing of Phantom Ray.

“Until we understand where the government is headed with the program, all the work that we had previously been doing to collaborate on [internal research and development] and technology, those things have gone into a pause mode ... and I’m not sure that the agreement will endure. And, at this point I’d say the jury is still out on what we will do,” Davis says. “I think the government in the day and age we are in probably wants more competition than less in the re-emergence of the program.”

Davis also says Boeing is well postured to be a prime in the next-generation bomber program. “Absolutely, we think we can prime and win. I can assure you the amount of investment we are making here will easily qualify us, and at one point we were the leaders in this business. So, to stay a relevant competitor in this area – that is why we chose to make this investment.”

03-03-10, 01:52 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

AeroVironment's Anubis - Lethal MAV?

Posted by Graham Warwick at 3/2/2010 11:00 AM CST

Unless I am adding two and two and making five, the US Air Force's Project Anubis has reared its head again. Wired's Danger Room blog surfaced Anubis early this year, saying the Air Force Research Laboratory had completed the project to develop a "killer micro-drone". Now AFRL has awarded small-UAV specialist AeroVironment a $1.2 million contract for "Anubis SBIR Phase III".

Pentagon budget documents for FY2010 describe Project Anubis as a "Tactical MAV for Time-Sensitive Fleeting Targets" and say its objective "is to address the need for a micro air vehicle that can engage high-value maneuvering targets". The project received $1.75 million in funding in FY2008 and "developed a MAV with innovative seeker/tracking algorithms". Danger Room described Anubis as an "assassination robot' for US special forces.

There is another reference to a Project Anubis a few pages later in the same document, this time saying the objective was to test squad-level "non-line-of-sight munitions with man-in-the loop target ID with very low collateral damage". Sounds somewhat similar.

The budget documents include Anubis within a group of quick-reaction special projects designed to "expedite new development and transition of new technologies" on timescales perhaps as short as 12 months.

Switchblade (Photos: AeroVironment)

If AeroVironment's Anubis is the same one, it sounds like a version of - or variation on - its Switchblade loitering miniature munition, a lethal 2lb mini-UAV now being readied for production. Perhaps, as Danger Room suggests, Anubis is an even smaller vehicle based on AeroVironment's under-1lb Wasp micro-UAV.

03-03-10, 01:15 PM
The Future For UAVs in the U.S. Air Force

When the Air Force recently mapped out a game plan to 2047, its report contained a big surprise: Fewer pilots and more robotic planes acting on their own. Will the airman-centric service accept a future with fewer cockpits? And are we ready for UAVs that can fire their weapons without human permission?

By Joe Pappalardo

Published in the March 2010 issue.

The Air Force is planning to build a fleet of unmanned warplanes that will fly and fight without human guidance. The next-generation aircraft envisioned by the Air Force, and modeled in the illustration opposite, would be able to dodge enemy radar, swap payloads for multiple kinds of missions and use sophisticated onboard sensors to prevent collisions with other UAVs and manned airplanes.

(Render by Mike Hill)

Like its waterfowl namesake, the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle has the excellent vision of a hunter. Today, the 27-foot-long Israeli UAV is making a rare flight over the United States, using a high-definition video camera to track a speedboat buzzing across the Patuxent River in Maryland. The camera shares space with an infrared thermal imager and laser rangefinder inside a 17-inch sphere mounted under the aircraft’s nose. The camera and the UAV both turn automatically to track the boat below, no satellite-linked joysticks required. On the Patuxent, a Coast Guard crew in a shallow-water patrol boat uses a real-time video feed from the Heron to locate the speedboat.

Less than 5 miles away, several hundred spectators watch the camera’s feed on a massive color television monitor. The crowd of defense officials, defense industry wonks and military aviation buffs—many with bumper stickers on their cars that say “My other vehicle is unmanned”—is thick here at Webster Field, an auxiliary naval airfield in Maryland. The Heron is just one of about a dozen UAVs making flight demonstrations. As each one sweeps overhead, an announcer gushes over its abilities with the over-enthusiasm of a county fair emcee describing a prize sheep.

The crowd watches on the massive screen as the two boats converge and the Coast Guard crew completes the mock interception. The image of the river scene wheels as the Heron banks away from the boats and returns to the airfield. The UAV glides into a smooth, autonomous landing and as the Heron taxis, the goofball emcee coos over the PA speakers: “Aw, isn’t that just pretty?”

The day is a spectacle of flying robots. A unit of Textron shows off an aircraft that it is pitching to the Marine Corps. It has a 12-foot wingspan and a pusher propeller mounted between its fuselage and inverted V-tail; it can be launched from a moving vehicle and is recovered by flying it into a net. The U.S. Army also has a marquee UAV to demo, the MQ-8B Fire Scout. The 3150-pound unmanned helicopter, the Army’s first, may soon scan battlefields for chemical weapons, minefields and radio transmissions. And the showstopper, even while remaining earthbound, is the Navy’s Joint Unmanned Combat Air System, a sleek, blended-wing aircraft with the maw of an air inlet placed almost mockingly where a cockpit would go. It sits like a resting bird, its 31-foot-long wings folded up for better storage on a warship. It is scheduled to perform an autonomous takeoff and landing from an aircraft carrier deck this year.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement that this is a revolution of military affairs. The revolution is the conscious application of automated technology.”—Col. Eric Mathewson, Unmanned Aircraft Aystems Task Force directorWith all the hardware and enthusiastic attendees, it’s easy to overlook a missing guest—the U.S. Air Force. Of all the advanced aircraft on the flight line, none is being developed for Air Force programs or is controlled by the service’s airmen.

Unmanned aircraft are the biggest thing to happen in military aviation since stealth geometry, and the Air Force’s leadership is dramatically increasing the UAV fleet this year. However, the service is still struggling over how the technology can be maximized in the future. “Today, the evolution of the machine is beginning to outpace the capability of the people we put in them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said late last year in a speech to the Air Force Association. “We now must reconsider the relationship.”

Under his direction, the Air Force is trying to become the Pentagon’s leader of future UAV development. Schwartz’s primary tool is the “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, 2009–2047,” a comprehensive look at how the U.S. military can expand the use of UAVs over the next 38 years. The Air Force is proposing to use next-generation unmanned aircraft in a slate of new missions, including air strikes, aerial refueling, cargo transport and long-range bombing.

But how much freedom will the Air Force be willing to grant unmanned airplanes? Its airmen are only now coming to accept UAVs—they fly them every day over Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and other hot spots—but the service has articulated a way forward that not only marginalizes pilots, it also promises to replace many UAV ground-control crews with automation. Today’s highly trained airmen may not embrace this vision of the future. One Air Force officer working with unmanned aircraft would only say he supports the report “because it’s a plan. And having a plan is better than not having a plan.”

Col. Pete Gersten commands the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, the only wing dedicated to unmanned airplanes like the MQ-9 Reaper (shown). Gersten is eagerly seeking crews to operate UAVs, but isn’t ready to replace them with software. (Photograph by Dan Winters)

Misfit Toys to Frontline Heroes

The Air Force squandered decades’ worth of opportunities to lead U.S. military UAV development. In the 1970s, the service experimented with unmanned surveillance craft in Vietnam but dropped all funding after it decided the technology did not offer improvements over traditional airplanes. Continued advances of Soviet warplanes, such as the MiG fighter, kept a Cold War premium on air superiority won by high-performance, expertly piloted airplanes.

The idea of unmanned airplanes also runs contrary to the airman-centric ethos that has defined the Air Force since it became an independent military branch in 1947. Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine in 1973 quoted an Air Force official’s disparaging verdict on remote-control warplanes: “How can you be a tiger sitting behind a console?” That attitude proved to be shortsighted. In 1982, Israel used UAVs to spoof Syrian radar in Lebanon, but the status quo in America continued for another decade. The Pentagon started UAV research in the mid-1990s, but even then the funding was tepid, in part because of Washington’s bias toward large, job-generating manned airplane programs.

Guerrilla wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed all that; the need for constant overhead video is driving a UAV spending spree. When facing insurgents who blend into a local population, good intelligence is worth more than even the smartest bomb. In 2010 the Defense Department will spend $5.4 billion on unmanned aircraft development, procurement and operations—about $2.5 billion more than the military spent on UAVs during the 1990s.

Experts Weigh In

Senior policy analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies
“I think the Flight Plan is a serious document. It’s not just discussing the technology, but the policy, the legislation, the ethical framework. The whole package needs to be developed in parallel as these technologies mature.” P.W. SINGER
Author, Wired for War, The Brookings Institution
“The road map to 2047 will likely be good for just a few years. But that’s all we need for it to make a big difference.”

Author, analyst, strategypage.com
The other services are pushing ahead with their UAV efforts without paying much attention to the Air Force. No one has any idea what the tech will be in 2017, much less 2047. In 2047 we’ll have stuff as unfamiliar to us as today’s tech would be to someone in the late 1940s.”
This boom is causing turf wars within the Pentagon. Military branches seldom develop weapons systems together, despite the potential savings of time and money if the services shared research costs and ordered hardware in bulk. The Air Force wants to coordinate UAV development within the Pentagon and drafted its ambitious Flight Plan to describe how the service would serve as the Pentagon’s chief guide to unmanned airplane development, in concert with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. “The Flight Plan is part of an Air Force effort to lay claim over everything that flies, whether it has a pilot or not,” says military analyst and author Jim Dunnigan.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force, which drafted the plan, is headquartered in a modest office that takes up a small fraction of one floor inside a banal building in Crystal City, Va. The full-time staff here tops out at a handful, but National Guard and Air Force Reserve temps fill out the administrative positions. Dozens of moonlighting planners from the Pentagon also volunteer for the task force, forgoing their free time for a chance to work on a project with high-ranking luminaries at Air Force headquarters who advise the task force.

The day-to-day work is supervised by the task force’s director, Col. Eric Mathewson. The former F-15 pilot is a compact man with a soft, smooth voice that always sounds earnest. Mathewson often places a hand on his head when he speaks, as if his ideas could burst from his temple if he weren’t holding them in. “It was clear we had been reactive, reactive, reactive,” Mathewson says. “It was time to develop a vision.”

That vision depends on developing smarter unmanned aircraft that can make life-and-death combat decisions on their own. According to the Flight Plan, UAVs will demonstrate “sense and avoid” collision-avoidance systems by the end of this year. Unmanned aircraft will be able to refuel each other by 2030. Global strike capability, perhaps even with nuclear weapons, is projected for 2047. “As technology advances, machines will automatically perform some repairs in flight,” the Flight Plan reads. “Routine ground maintenance will be conducted by machines without human touch labor.” The Air Force document not only discusses once-taboo subjects, such as automatic target engagement and autonomous UAVs flying in commercial airspace, it also includes short-term recommendations and goals to one day make them feasible.

Mathewson says that by 2020 just one control crew—airborne or ground-based—will be able to control multiple UAVs at once. Ground-control crews today, even when aided by advanced autopiloting, continuously monitor a single UAV. This level of direct control and supervision is referred to as man-in-the-loop. But a robotic system that only alerts humans when a critical decision needs to be made is called man-on-the-loop. A ground-control crew can opt to redirect the UAV or assume direct control until the key choice is made. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement that this is a revolution of military affairs,” Mathewson says. “The revolution is the conscious application of automated technology.”

Robot-Assisted Air Strike

Man-on-the-loop controls could make a battlefield look like this: An F-35A Lightning II fighter cuts through the night sky. The pilot’s mission is simple—destroy an enemy bunker protected by a network of radar and antiaircraft missile batteries. His three wingmen—one flying scant feet away, another 150 miles ahead and the third preparing to cause a diversion far to the east—are following a meticulous battle plan meant to defeat these defenses. Of the four aircraft in the strike group, only the F-35A has a cockpit; the rest are semiautonomous UAVs that the pilot must trust with his life.

One of the most dangerous missions in military aviation is suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD. The lead UAV becomes bait as it flies into radar range of antiaircraft missile batteries. An icon on the F-35 pilot’s virtual head-up display, projected onto the faceplate of his helmet, alerts him that the SEAD unmanned airplane has automatically identified the emissions of an enemy radar site. This is the first time in the mission that the SEAD airplane has communicated with any human.

Miles from the danger, the F-35A pilot coolly assesses the situation displayed on one of the screens in his cockpit, confirms the target is legitimate and authorizes the lead UAV to fire. The AGM-88 high-speed antiradiation missile follows the radar waves back to their source, obliterating the dish and its crew. There is now a gap in the enemy radar screen, and the pilot directs the UAV to return to base.

Meanwhile, another UAV east of the target, navigating by using a mix of GPS and accelerometer data, is busy scrambling other enemy radar installations by flooding the skies with emissions that share the radar’s frequency. The jamming pods under the UAV’s wings also disrupt radio transmissions from the air-defense network, covering up the sudden loss of contact with the radar sites protecting the bunker. Otherwise, an enemy commander could discover the location of the actual raid. After a preset amount of time spreading confusion, the UAV returns to base.

The F-35A pilot is closing in on the target fast and needs to carefully aim the F-35’s electro-optical targeting system to release a bomb that will hit the structure at an angle calculated to collapse it without destroying nearby civilian buildings. He triggers the laser designator and authorizes the nearby unmanned airplane to drop a pair of bombs, which use fins to steer toward the laser-designated sweet spot. The pilot watches the twin, concurrent explosions, makes a quick battle-damage assessment and, satisfied, banks the airplane and heads back to base. His robotic wingman follows his lead, flying evenly at his side.

Even as the Air Force frantically expands its fleet of MQ-9 Reapers—hoping to field more than 300 by the end of 2010—the service is seeking a tougher, faster and smarter successor. “We are going to replace them before they fail,” says the wing commander in charge of the Reapers.

Skeptical Views From the Front

It can be hard to see the Flight Plan’s vision of autonomous flying robots from the human-intensive work being done at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The desert base is in the midst of an unprecedented boom as it hosts the fast-growing 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, the only one dedicated solely to flying unmanned aircraft. Every aircraft and satellite-linked ground-control station here is being used to fly missions in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and points beyond. New buildings fill up with staff as soon as the construction dust settles. “Every time the fishbowl grows, the fish get too big for it,” says Col. Pete Gersten, the 432nd’s commander. Mathewson served at Creech as group commander before Gersten’s arrival, but their jobs now are pointed in opposite directions. As Gersten wrestles with recruiting ground-control crews, Mathewson promotes ways to replace the airmen with artificial intelligence.

Every time an airman is replaced by a machine, the Air Force cuts the cost of health benefits, base upkeep and recruitment. Current unmanned systems require as many, if not more, people to fly missions than piloted airplanes do. For example, it takes a crew of three to operate a Reaper, even while it’s on autopilot: one to fly, another to operate the sensor ball in its nose and a third to serve as military intelligence liaison. Another pair must deploy to the forward airfield to guide the UAV, using line-of-sight radio during takeoff and landing. By replacing these positions with automated functions, the cost of joystick operators could plummet.

But Gersten—who calls his unmanned airplanes remotely piloted vehicles to emphasize the crews operating them—does not give up human control over the aircraft unless it provides a clear war-fighting edge. For example, the Flight Plan pegs autonomous takeoff and landing for the Reaper by the end of 2010, but Gersten is not begging for that ability. In fact, when faced with a rash of accidents during landings, Gersten chose a solution to help, not replace, the joystick pilot.

“Unmanned aircraft systems [UAS] will fly autonomously to an area of interest while avoiding collisions with other UAS in the swarm. These UAS will automatically process imagery requests and will ‘detect’ threats and targets through the use of artificial intelligence.” —U.S. Air Force UAS Flight Plan, 2009–2047

The landing gear would collapse when Gersten’s UAVs bounced down the runway. Operators have a tough time finding the correct pitch of the nose after a UAV’s wheels bounce off the runway, causing oscillations that can destroy the aircraft on the third or fourth bounce. The seemingly obvious solution: Program the machines to take over and land automatically—something the Army’s Sky Warrior, which is nearly identical to a Predator, already does. But Gersten opted for a simpler fix, adding a triangular carrot icon on the flight-control screen that sets the correct pitch to prevent the oscillation cycle from starting. This change will be made to ground-control stations this year, and he says “the cost is minuscule.”

Gersten’s reaction to the Flight Plan is coolly receptive. (He rolls his eyes at the report’s language that suggests that UAVs one day could carry nuclear weapons.) The lower ranks on the base are more frankly skeptical of autonomy. Senior Airman Jessie Grace, a sensor-operator instructor at Creech, has spent wrist-aching hours keeping a UAV’s camera trained on a target vehicle or locking his tired eyes on display screens to catch subtle signs of insurgent activity. While he does say that pilots could control more than one airplane at once, Grace sees things differently when it comes to his specialty. “I can’t imagine a computer doing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance better than a person,” he says.

Mathewson lists battlefield demands as the biggest hindrance to the Flight Plan, but he notes inflexible attitudes as another roadblock. “You see a cultural resistance,” Mathewson says. “It’s the same thing with the horse cavalry during the introduction of the tank.”

Programmed Killer Instincts

Until the Flight Plan, it was nearly impossible to find officials who would even discuss the possibility of unmanned airplanes firing their weapons without human permission. But the report states that by 2030, flying robots could be programmed with “automatic target engagement” abilities. A UAV would open fire only after clearing a checklist of technical details from its sensors—its preset rules of engagement. Such a system would be an heir to ones currently used in Patriot antiaircraft batteries and some antimissile weapons on Navy ships. The legacy of the Patriot is mixed. During the second Gulf War, the system downed a pair of friendly airplanes, killing one American and two British pilots, after mistaking the planes for enemy missiles. Many military officials faulted an over-reliance on automation, but think-tank analysts noted that a lack of training caused the dependence and was the root cause of the tragedies.

Mathewson says that keeping people directly involved at the end of the kill chain is optional but preferred. “There are not that many cases where you’ll have free fire, where you’re going to have the system completely automated,” he says. “If you look at the way we employ unmanned aircraft in the current fights, the rules of engagement require that someone [in charge at the rear] has to approve it, to say, ‘Yes, indeed, you’re cleared hot’ for every single case. And that would hold true.”

While Gersten normally keeps any pride in check, the former F-16 pilot can be moralistic in arguing to have a man at the helm of a system that can bring death to its targets. “Warfare should be humanistic,” he says. “Human value requires a human interface.” It’s his way of saying that even sworn enemies deserve to have an actual person, rather than an algorithm, make the decision to kill them.

03-03-10, 03:06 PM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalUSAF, RAF share experiences of fast-track UAV training

By Craig Hoyle

The US Air Force and UK Royal Air Force have provided first details of their experiences in delivering fast-track training services for unmanned aircraft system pilots, with both saying that additional work is required to meet operational demands.

Initial USAF efforts to prepare new pilots and sensor operators for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have shown that students lack situational awareness and mission management experience, says Jeffery Wiseman, chief of the Air Education and Training Command's (AETC) UAS training branch.

A so-called beta trial was launched in January 2009 to pass candidates with no prior pilot or aircrew experience through the USAF's training pipeline for the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B. The first of these completed limited flying training last August, and some have now flown supervised combat sorties over Afghanistan.

In response to the operational shortcomings identified so far, the air force intends to increase pilot instruction from the current 18h flown at San Pueblo, California to reach the equivalent of a private pilot's licence, including instrumented flight rating. "We want them to be credible aviators," Wiseman says.

Additional instruction will be provided at Randolph AFB, Texas, using simulators for the Beechcraft T-6 turboprop, and new desktop trainers for the Reaper will also be available from August.

Wiseman says 111 RPA pilots and 25 sensor operators had received instruction using the new system by December 2009, including those from two beta courses. The AETC is awaiting a decision to potentially increase its intake to 10 students a month, he says, with a goal of reaching 250 annually by fiscal year 2013.

However, Wiseman says he is "concerned that we have not got the capacity to support the training demand as it grows", unless additional capacity is put in place.

Meanwhile, an RAF trial dubbed "Daedalus" has encountered difficulties in satisfying US crew requirements for the Reaper, says Sqn Ldr Tony Sumner from the Central Flying School's flying training development squadron.

Two students with no previous flying experience logged 35h on the Grob G115 Tutor and six weeks of simulator work on the Shorts Tucano T1, but will only be permitted to transition onto the Predator: a type which the USAF intends to retire by fiscal year 2015.

However, the first of two UK pilots sourced after completing training on the BAE Systems Hawk T1 began transitioning to the Reaper in February under a three-year detachment to Creech AFB, Nevada.

"Our goal is to establish a sustainable UAS cadre and reduce demands on manned pilot cadre," Sumner told IQPC's Military Flight Training conference in London.

04-03-10, 01:29 AM
More on this UAV...........interesting concept...........as are the two comments, see the bottom...............


A Defense Technology Blog

Flexrotor - ScanEagle Goes Vertical?

Posted by Graham Warwick at 3/3/2010 11:00 AM CST

A new UAV from the designer of the Aerosonde and ScanEagle is not to be ignored, and is likely to be an extraordinary performer. After all, the Aerosonde was the first unmanned aircraft to cross the Atlantic and the ScanEagle extracts more than 24h endurance from a 20kg airframe. The Aerovel Flexrotor doesn't disappoint: a 19.2kg vehicle with 40h-plus endurance - that takes off and lands vertically.

Photo: Aerovel

Aerovel was founded by Tad McGeer, who helped form Insitu and designed the Aerosonde and ScanEagle. McGeer says he was "pushed out" of Insitu in late 2005 and formed Aerovel in 2006 to develop the Flexrotor, which is designed to tackle one of the disadvantages of the ScanEagle - the size of its launch and recovery equipment.

The Flexrotor is a tailsitter, and designed for automatic retrieval, refueling and launch using one lightweight base station, details of which are still under wraps. McGeer says a tailsitter configuration allows the airframe to be designed for wingborne efficiency. The low disc loading - half that of a helicopter - means the Flexrotor is essentially a powered sailplane in forward flight and keeps the power-to-weight ratio low.

The vehicle is powered by the same 3W-28 single-cylinder two-stroke engine as the ScanEagle, driving the 1.85m-diameter two-blade rotor through a reduction gearbox. That gearbox is one of the penalties of VTOL; another is a slight reduction in top speed, says McGeer. To land, the aircraft pitches from horizontal to vertical flight and uses helicopter-style collective and cyclic pitch control, electric thrusters on the wing tips counteracting rotor torque. The payload is in the nose.

Art: Aerovel

Aerovel has completed the prototype, is now testing the drive train and hopes to fly the Flexrotor by mid-year. The prototype will be used for testing on the propulsion system, hover and transition flight control and automatic turnaround. The company hopes to have a production-standard aircraft available for user trails by late 2011.

Marcase wrote:

I really like the ScanEagle.

It is the only UAV that can be operated from ships which lack a flightdeck - that line-catcher contraption is nothing short of brilliant, and not that large or cumbersome, compared to the barrier nets of the earlier UAV types.

And that 24hr endurance is golden, period. ScanEagle can give that eye-in-the-sky capability to the smallest of ships, and should be pushed for deployment aboard (surfaced) submarines.

This Flexrotor looks interesting, I'm just curious about crosswinds during VTOLs, and where to stick the ISR kit without unbalancing it.

3/3/2010 1:52 PM CST

Graham Warwick wrote:

The payload goes in the nose ahead of the prop/rotor, which is okay for an EO/IR sensor, I suppose, but I'm not sure how well a small SAR would work that close to the blades.

And McGeer acknowledged some concerns about the transition in gusts with such a low disc loading and power-to-weight ratio, and it's high in the list for flight testing.

3/3/2010 2:54 PM CST

04-03-10, 01:55 AM
More on the Phantom Ray............


SOURCE:Flight International Boeing plots course for Phantom Ray

By Stephen Trimble

The Boeing Phantom Ray will start taxi tests in July ahead of first flight in late December, but the future of the unmanned strike aircraft after a one-year series of 10 flight tests remains uncertain.

Boeing has delayed taxi tests from the second quarter to July because the Phantom Ray's exhaust system had been diverted to a classified programme, says Daryl Davis, president of Boeing advanced systems. The exhaust has now been returned from the classified programme, which Davis described as technology tests to demonstrate reliability and maintainability, among other things.

Although the start of taxi testing has shifted three months, Boeing nevertheless plans to complete first flight on schedule in late December this year, he says.

Boeing has planned to conduct 10 flight tests with Phantom Ray to open the entire flight envelope.

© Tim Bicheno-Brown/Flightglobal.com

The programme can reuse several accomplishments from the X-45A programme, which flew in the first half of the last decade under the defunct Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) programme.

The X-45A technologies in Phantom Ray include failure modes or autonomous vehicles. Mission planning systems are also being reused.

Boeing, however, still is unable to answer questions about the programme's future. The Phantom Ray is designed to potentially match the US Air Force's requirements for the MQ-X contract, which could enter competition after fiscal year 2012, Davis says.

A scaled-up version of Phantom with twice the range also could become a contender for the USAF's future long-range strike requirement, he says.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin previously teamed to compete against Northrop for long-range strike contracts. That agreement however is now on hold, and is likely to be dropped, he says.

"Until we understand where the government is going to head I'm not sure the agreement is going to endure," Davis says. "At this point, I'd say the jury is still out on what we're going to do."

Lockheed's Skunk Works division confirms that the agreement with Boeing is on hold.

"We have been working closely with Boeing for the past two years to conduct research and development related to a next-generation bomber project," Lockheed says. "Currently, that work is on hold pending firm direction from the government regarding a future bomber acquisition strategy."

05-03-10, 04:16 AM
X-51 getting ready for first flight

Posted 3/4/2010 Updated 3/4/2010

X-51A Scram jet prepares for first flight
Crew members prepare the X-51A for a captive carry flight under the B-52 Stratofortress Dec. 9. The captive carry is part of the preparations being made prior to the first flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Cassidy)

by Diane Betzler

Aerotech News and Review

3/4/2010 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- There's some pretty exciting stuff going on at Edwards Air Force Base as the flight test center team gets ready to conduct an awe-inspiring X-51 first flight.

The plan is to air launch the X-51A WaveRider using an expendable solid rocket booster from under the wing of a B-52, this spring.

Lt. Col. Todd Venema, director of the Hypersonic Combined Test Force explained just how the test team plans to do that. "We're going to take the WaveRider and launch it from a B-52 at 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean and the vehicle is going to drop away."

Colonel Venema further explained that if all goes as planned, the vehicle will be accelerated by a solid rocket booster up to about Mach 4.5. Once it reaches that speed the booster will drop away and the vehicle and the engine will ignite and accelerate the vehicle up to Mach 6, about six times the speed of sound.

Johnny Armstrong, chief engineer of the Hypersonic Combined Test Force explained what a scramjet is. "A scramjet is an engine that has no internal moving parts. It takes in air, you mix fuel in it and it automatically burns and because of the high speed and high temperature that you get in flight, it's able to produce a thrust."

Developed by Boeing, the jet-fueled, air breathing hypersonic vehicle is expected to demonstrate a reliable system capable of operating continuously on jet fuel and accelerating through multiple Mach speeds.

Testing hypersonic technology at Edwards is not new. The concept began in 1959 with the X-15 program, which Mr. Armstrong was also involved in. Work on the program pretty much stopped until recently, but as a result of advancements in technology, interest in the program has rekindled and has allowed testers to go forward.

Colonel Venema said the upcoming first flight is a fairly complicated test. He said the altitude is at the top of the B-52 capability and said testing will call for flight test chase planes. "Telemetry has to be relayed to the Naval Air Station at Pt. Magu to a control room with about 35 people, all watching the various telemetry. So there will be a lot of team work aspects to the whole project," he said.

Dawn Waldman, chief of broadcast for the 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, explained in a recent newscast that testers say the purpose behind the X-51A program is to demonstrate the ability to use air-breathing, hydro-carbon propulsion in the hypersonic flight regime, which is flight more than five times the speed off sound.
Charlie Brink, X-51 program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory says what makes that a challenge for the test team is that conventional turbine engines are physically limited to about 2.5 Mach or 2 ½ times the speed of sound.

"The scramjet in the X-51 will be able to take in the air flight speeds over Mach 4 and up to Mach 6," Brink said, explaining, as Armstrong did, that the engine achieves its speed by taking in air from the atmosphere, burns it and uses it for thrust, a capability, he said, that will be able to be applied to many other flight applications that the Air Force might use.

Ms. Waldman said in her report that as scramjet technology is developed testers believe that in the near future it could be used to aid warfighters as a weapons delivery system. She said officials believe that in the future the scramjet technology will make space access easier.

"The application really is all about space lift," Mr. Brink agreed, and said, "This is the one, I think, in the Air Force Research Lab we're most excited about."

Mr. Brink pointed out that they currently transport payload into space with the shuttle, which has to carry all of its oxidizers for the propulsion concept. He said the shuttle is a pure rocket system and said if they can incorporate scramjet engine technology into the space lift systems, they wouldn't have to carry the oxidizers and could carry more payload instead.

Calling the X-51 program the highlight of his career, Mr. Armstrong said, "For me personally, this is a real reward toward the end of a career where I've worked hypersonics and now all of a sudden this program is here and after 32 years since the X-15 last flew, I'm able to go back into a control room and experience a hypersonic flight test program."

The X-51 program is a consortium between Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The customers are the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with support from NASA.

B-52 Stratofortress performs a captive carry flight of the X-51A Scram Jet Dec. 9. The flight was performed to test the B-52's airwortiness while carrying the X-51A. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Cassidy)

06-03-10, 01:54 PM
New Manager Wants To Guide UCAS Back On Schedule

By christopher p. cavas

Published: 5 Mar 2010 18:19

With the test schedule slipping, the new program manager for the U.S. Navy's unmanned carrier air system demonstrator (UCAS-D) program has begun a thorough assessment that he hopes will get the development effort back on track.

"Our path ahead is to take ownership of this program," Capt. Jeff Penfield said in an interview March 5. "Regardless of whether we were on time or not, I'm going to do the detailed assessment of where the program's at. [We're going to] understand the requirement, the stakeholder wishes and desires, the funding, the system engineering behind what we have done, so I can put my stamp of approval onto the schedule from this point forth.

"I know we're off schedule," he continued. "I cannot tell you how far off. We've said we're going to fly later this year. My goal is to tell you precisely when we will fly later this year."

Penfield, who directed the Navy's AIM-9X Sidewinder missile development program for the last three years, took over the UCAS-D office March 2, replacing retiring Capt. Martin Deppe. The move happened quickly.

Navy officials were unable to provide details as of March 5.

The effort to create a technology demonstrator for the first carrier-based, unmanned jet strike aircraft, dubbed the X-47B, has fallen off schedule by several months, but the aircraft began ground taxi tests at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' Palmdale, Calif., facility in January.

Penfield acknowledged that "systems engineering issues" were encountered during the tests - a normal occurrence in development programs.

The plane will later be moved to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for final taxiing tests and its first flight. Integration with Navy systems will take place at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., for about six to nine months, with initial at-sea tests to take place on the carrier Harry S. Truman.

Those seagoing tests are now scheduled to take place from the Truman in late 2011 or early 2012, a timeframe the program is still hoping to meet, according to Penfield. One driver to keep to the schedule, he said, is the availability of the carrier beyond that time.

The X-47B program profile has been raised over the past six months as Navy planners have become increasingly enthusiastic about integrating the aircraft's capabilities into operational concepts. Although the demonstrator program will buy only two aircraft, strategists and analysts have gamed out using squadrons of the aircraft to attack enemy targets, taking advantage of the aircraft's long range and endurance. Service officials have increasingly begun thinking of the UCAS-D program as an operational prototype in addition to its technology demonstration role.

Penfield declared the program has not changed its initial goal, "to land an unmanned, low-observable, tailless airplane onto an aircraft carrier."

UCAS-D, he added, "is strictly a demo to learn how to take an airplane like this with nobody in it and fly through that nasty burble that lives behind that aircraft carrier."

"We're going to use these lessons learned to feed that analysis on what the next step is," he added.

As for prime contractor Northrop Grumman, Penfield noted that the company "is doing pretty well with this technology. This is leading-edge technology and they have the track record of being able to prove strong system engineering and developmental principles in developing this stuff.

"I'm optimistic. I have heard nothing about any technical issues that are not surmountable," he said. "In any program there are issues, but none are show-stoppers."

08-03-10, 02:22 PM
Army Approaches Million Unmanned Flying Hours

(Source: US Army; issued March 5, 2010)

WASHINGTON --- The Army's fast approaching one million hours of unmanned aviation flight with its unmanned aerial systems.

"Right now it looks like we'll hit probably one million total hours sometime next month," said Col. Christopher Carlile, director, United States Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence. "But it'll take us to around September or October before we'll hit one million hours in support of combat operations."

The colonel said about 90 percent of the Army's unmanned flying hours are in support of combat. The Army aviation community will recognize the milestone in late May with displays at the Pentagon and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

Speaking to an audience of Soldiers and defense-industry professionals last week during the 2010 Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Carlile said the Army is prepared for growth in use of unmanned aerial systems and for broadening their mission sets.

"Today we are probably 99 percent-plus for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles for UAS," he said. "Though in the future, there will be new roles."

The colonel said those new roles could include communications relays, sustainment and cargo, for instance.

Training is ramping up for more UAS support as well. Out at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the Army runs a joint training installation for UAS operators and maintainers. There, they train Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. Carlile said the Army is expected to see an increase in Soldiers that need to be trained at the facility.

"Today we will train, in Fiscal Year 2010, about 800," he said. "By 2018, our requirement is over 3,000 operators."

Unlike other services, the Army finds placing enlisted servicemembers at the controls of a UAS to be most effective, and Carlile said that is not likely to change.

"Army enlisted UAS operators are fully capable and well trained to do anything you give them to do, and it'll shock you when you hear how many hours of operation they have," he said.

Carlile said the Army puts aircraft like the RQ-7 Shadow and the Raven in the lowest units, keeping their ISR capability close to the commanders who will need it.

"One of the greatest things we did was place the Shadow platoon in the brigade combat team in the early days," he said. "It allowed our infantry and our armor officers to realize the potential and know they owned it and know they were going to get it when they asked for it."

Aviation is a complex business, prone to mishap, Carlile said, and the Army has found ways to minimize that by allowing technology in the UAS to do "what it does best."

"What we found is that when the Army adapted that methodology to go toward an automated method to let the equipment do what it does best -- let it come up with automated take off and landing strategy -- what we have seen, it would shock you."

The colonel said that human error accidents and incidents are now nearing the single- digit mark now.

Despite successes of UAS in Iraq and Afghanistan, late in 2009 it was reported in the press that the Defense Department had confirmed that insurgents could intercept unencrypted video feeds from UAS.

On Capitol Hill, March 10, Secretary of the Army John McHugh was queried about UAS security by Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. McHugh said he felt confident about the current status of Army systems.

"The Army greatly values, and commanders feel very strongly, about the Army's need to have these capabilities particularly at a strategic level," the secretary said. "All the services recognized that potential vulnerability early on and have reacted aggressively to it, and we feel comfortable with the systems in place."


09-03-10, 04:53 AM
Boeing 'Phantom Eye' Hydrogen Powered Vehicle Takes Shape
ST. LOUIS, March 8, 2010 -- The jig load assembly, model of a liquid-hydrogen engine and fuselage skins for Boeing’s Phantom Eye demonstrator in St. Louis are part of the high altitude long endurance aircraft being assembled by teams in Boeing’s Phantom Works division. Other work on Phantom Eye is being done in Irvine and Huntington Beach, Calif., and in Seattle.

Boeing 'Phantom Eye' Hydrogen Powered Vehicle Takes Shape

ST. LOUIS, March 8, 2010 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has begun to build Phantom Eye -- its first unmanned, liquid-hydrogen powered, high altitude long endurance (HALE) demonstrator aircraft.

“The essence of Phantom Eye is its propulsion system,” said Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president. “After five years of technology development, we are now deploying rapid prototyping to bring together an unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] with a breakthrough liquid-hydrogen propulsion system that will be ready to fly early next year.”

Phantom Eye’s entire propulsion system -- including the engine, turbo chargers and engine control system -- successfully completed an 80-hour test in an altitude chamber on March 1, clearing the way for the propulsion system and UAV to be assembled.

The twin-engine Phantom Eye demonstrator will have a 150-foot wingspan and be capable of flying for more than four days at altitudes up to 65,000 feet while carrying a payload of up to 450 pounds. Phantom Eye is designed to maintain a persistent presence in the stratosphere over a specific area, while performing missions that could include intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. Boeing also is developing a larger HALE that will stay aloft for more than 10 days and carry payloads of more than 2,000 pounds, and building “Phantom Ray,” a fighter-sized UAV that will be a flying test bed for advanced technologies.

“We believe Phantom Eye and Phantom Ray represent two areas where the unmanned aerial vehicle market is heading, and rapid prototyping is the key to getting us there,” said Dave Koopersmith, Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft vice president. “These innovative demonstrators reduce technology risks and set the stage for meeting both military and commercial customers’ future needs.”

Phantom Eye evolved from Boeing’s earlier success with the piston-powered Condor that set several records for altitude and endurance in the late 1980s. Boeing, as the Phantom Eye system designer, is working closely with Ball Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences, Ford Motor Co. and MAHLE Powertrain to develop the demonstrator.

Phantom Ray evolved from the X-45C program. It is scheduled to make its first flight in December.

10-03-10, 01:46 AM
UAV Could Be Battlefield Ambulance

Mar 9, 2010

By David Eshel
Tel Aviv

The Israel Defense Forces medical corps is looking at procuring an innovative unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that will evacuate critical casualties directly from the battlefield to the hospital. This would get more wounded to the hospital within the “golden hour,” the critical time in which a medical evacuation has the best chance of saving a wounded soldier’s life.

One of the candidates for the program is the AirMule, a vertical takeoff and landing UAV developed by Urban Aeronautics Ltd., an Israeli company specializing in Fancraft technology. Other aircraft being considered include helicopters converted to unmanned vehicles.

Lt. Col. Gil Hirschorn, a doctor and former flight medic who leads the medical corps’ trauma branch, says an important benefit of AirMule is its ability to land in areas of a fire-saturated battlefield that would be inaccessible to other vehicles. Hirschorn says the UAV, which is now being tested, will be equipped with stretchers, air conditioning and a communications system that establishes video contact between injured soldiers and the medical center. The wounded will be transported in a protected compartment and monitored throughout the flight. The current design holds two wounded soldiers lying prone. Future versions will include space for a medic.

The vehicle would add an important capability to the logistics of casualty evacuation, and be able to support amphibious operations as well as ground forces.

AirMule is a ducted-fan vehicle that uses Urban Aeronautics’ patented Fancraft lift system, based on internal rotors that provide lift and propulsion systems. The core of the technology is the Vane Control System (VCS), which consists of a cascade of vanes at the inlet and outlet ducts that can be deflected simultaneously (top and bottom) or differentially to generate side force or a rolling movement. Front and rear ducts are deflected differentially for yaw. “The VCS generates six degrees of freedom independent of one another. For the first time we have a vehicle that moves sideways without the need to roll,” says Rafi Yoeli, founder and CEO of Urban Aeronautics.

The company successfully completed the first phase of tethered flight trials, which consisted of autonomous hovers in which the vehicle maintained stable height and attitude. An onboard fly-by-wire system controls pitch, roll and yaw. The next series of tests will evaluate the AirMule’s position-keeping capability, and the vehicle will fly untethered for the first time.

The UAV is powered by a 730-shp. Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine, which drives the fore and aft ducted rotors and aft thrusters through gearboxes and shafts. Its unique propulsion capabilities reportedly enable safe flight through areas of dense vegetation, in urban areas, over rough terrain and at high temperatures. The flight-control developed by Urban Aeronautics is a four-channel redundant system that relies almost entirely on inertial measurements and is augmented by GPS for translational position and velocity readings. Two laser altimeters indicate the vehicle’s height above ground. According to Yoeli, data show that the AirMule will hover with high precision even in gusty wind.

The vehicle carries a useful payload of 227 kg. (500 lb.). It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1 ton, and is designed to fly missions of 2-4 hr. at up to 100 kt. Its maximum ceiling is 12,000 ft. An operational version is expected to be available by 2012.

The concept of ducted-fan technology was popular among aircraft designers in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Piasecki Co. developed ducted-fan vehicles known as “flying jeeps” for the U.S. Army. The configuration was similar to the design used by Urban Aeronautics—two ducts, fore and aft, with a cabin in the middle. The concept, though, was ahead of the technology needed to develop a viable aircraft. The flying jeeps were difficult to control and had little endurance—only about 20 min. Because of this, vertical takeoff and landing remained a feature exclusive to helicopters. An array of technologies that have evolved since—efficient, lightweight engines, composite materials and flight-control computers—solved most of the problems associated with ducted-fan vehicles. What remained were aerodynamic challenges, notably in the areas of drag and controllability. Urban Aeronautics patented a package of innovations that reportedly resolves these problems.

The company is working on two other unmanned applications of the Fancraft technology—Panda, a small, electrically powered surveillance UAV, and Mule, a mid-sized UAV with a 500-lb. payload capacity.

In 2006 the company began working with Bell Helicopter to design the X‑Hawk, a large, man-carrying ducted-fan vehicle for urban missions in the military and civilian sectors.

Photo: Urban Aeronautics

10-03-10, 02:31 AM
Kaman Aerospace Aims to Provide Unmanned Helicopter to U.S. Marine Corps

(Source: Forecast International; issued March 8, 2010)

HARTFORD, Conn. - The U.S. Marine Corps is looking to acquire an unmanned helicopter to perform battlefield resupply missions to remote bases. Kaman Aerospace is competing for this contract against competitors such as Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing.

Kaman is months ahead of its rivals. Now, an unmanned version of the K-Max will deploy to Afghanistan later this year. If its performance is good, Kaman could win a production contract.

Kaman is teamed with Lockheed Martin. The Marine Corps Systems Command put out a Request for Proposals for an unmanned resupply helicopter in 2009. Kaman and Lockheed Martin won a $860,000 contract to demonstrate K-Max's ability. Kaman later received another $3.2 million development contract.

There are three K-Max helicopters available for immediate conversion. Production of an unmanned resupply helicopter may not occur in any significant number. The K-Max concluded a successful demonstration for the Marines in February at a Utah testing site.

Boeing is offering a version of its A160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter to the Marine Corps. The A160 is lighter and faster than the K-Max. Boeing received $500,000 to demonstrate the Hummingbird's capability. Sikorsky's bid is based on a modified version of its Black Hawk transport helicopter.


10-03-10, 01:53 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Germany Eyes Mid-March Heron Ops

Posted by Robert Wall at 3/10/2010 3:10 AM CST

The German air force says it expects the first Heron unmanned aircraft it is leasing through Rheinmetall to become operational in Afghanistan mid-month.

The first of the assets were dispatched to Mazar-e-Sharif last month, where they are now undergoing final preparations.
The UAV unit belonging to the 51st reconnaissance wing will be wearing this patch:

[credit: Luftwaffe]

The Germans see the Herons and recce Tornados that are already there as complementing each other. The UAVs will provide real-time recce, while the Tornados will focus more on intelligence tasks since they provide higher resolution imagery, but it comes with greater latency. The UAV data will also be transmitted to Germany via satellite.

The Heron air vehicle operators are all combat or transport pilots.

10-03-10, 03:45 PM
24 Cadets Receive Academy's First UAS-RPA Wings

(Source: US Air Force; issued March 9, 2010)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --- Four junior and 20 sophomore U.S. Air Force Academy cadets received the first unmanned aerial systems-remotely piloted aircraft wings awarded in the school's 55-year history during a function at the Dean's Heritage House Feb. 25, here.

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy superintendent and Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the dean of the faculty, presented cadets with certificates and UAS-RPA scarves during the event.

"I'm thrilled to recognize the first class of cadets to graduate from Airmanship 200, Airmanship 201 and Airmanship 202 and become the catapult leaders for the UAS-RPA program at the Air Force Academy," General Born said. "You are all pioneers."

Cadets dined and spoke with Generals Gould and Born as well as other leaders in attendance. "I've been with RPAs since the beginning," General Gould said. "At first, it was tough going until we realized what a tremendous impact they could have on the application of airpower. Now, we can't build them fast enough to satisfy demand."

The Air Force's role in that history began in the mid- to late-1990s, awarding General Atomics a contract to build the first MQ-1 Predators for $3.2 million apiece.

Teams with the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Air Station (now Creech AFB), Nev., flew Predators during Operation Allied Force in 1999. RPA mission frequency stepped up during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 as Air Force officials started deploying Predators in greater numbers to gather intelligence.

"Back then, we were doing good to get two Predators in the air for 20 hours a day," General Gould said.

The number of RPA missions leaped after Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates demanded more ISR capability from the Air Force in June 2008. Today the Air Force flies approximately 40 combat air patrols, or CAPS, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, primarily over Iraq and Afghanistan to provide persistent reconnaissance and strike capability.

The Air Force is programmed to go to 50 CAPs and may go as high as 65, said Maj. Gen. James Poss, the director of Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy, integration and doctrine at the Pentagon.

"I'd tell you that you're the wave of the future, but you're not; you're the wave of the present," the general said. "That's the kind of impact you're going to have."

Cadet 2nd Class Jeff Nakayama, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., is one of the four juniors forming the Academy's instructor pilot cadre and an economics major with Cadet Squadron 34. He first found out about the Academy's UAS-RPA program through Cadet 2nd Class Bradley Sapper, an astronautical engineering major with CS 03.

"They were looking for people to head up leadership in a brand-new (UAS-RPA) program," said Cadet Nakayama. "I said, 'You know what? Let's see what happens,' and it took off from there," he said.

The instructor pilots visited Nellis AFB and Creech AFB, in the summer of 2009 to learn more about RPAs in the operational Air Force. "It was an interesting experience, seeing the operational side and watching Airmen actually conduct a mission out there," Cadet Nakayama said. "We were able to go through the program first, experiment and spend a little more time on the airplane than the 2012 cadets did, and we got to teach them, which was the biggest challenge and learning experience."

The UAS-RPA program will take another step forward next year when the Academy acquires a Scan Eagle, a 40-pound unmanned aircraft that launches from a hydraulic system similar to the catapult systems on aircraft carriers and lands using a skyhook and Global Positioning System guidance.

"Everyone's going to be learning again," Cadet Nakayama said. And while the four Class of 2011 cadets will go into Air Force history as the Academy's first RPA instructor pilots, Cadet Nakayama said the real catapult leaders will be cadet instructors from future classes.

"I think it's going to be more the (classes of) 2012 and 2013 who really take off with the program, set it in full force and expand it to what General Gould, General Born and General McCarthy envision," he said.


11-03-10, 08:29 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalRAF outlines Afghan experience with Reaper UAV

By Craig Hoyle

The UK Royal Air Force has doubled the level of operational activity with its General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan within the last few months, and says a planned fleet expansion will boost this output by a similar margin within the near term.

Controlled by the RAF's 39 Sqn from Creech AFB in Nevada, the UK's Reapers provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance services, and "where required, offensive support to the International Security Assistance Force", says officer commanding Wg Cdr Jules Ball.

Introduced in late 2007, the aircraft have amassed more than 8,000 flight hours in Afghanistan and "are now providing 24/7 coverage", Ball says. "As a squadron we have matured very quickly," he adds.

© Cpl Steve Bain/Crown Copyright

The unit has grown to around 100 personnel, including 17 aircrews, each comprising a pilot and sensor operator drawn from types including the BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9, Nimrod MR2 and Panavia Tornado F3. Sorties also involve an image analyst/mission co-ordinator, plus and a two-person launch and recovery team located in Afghanistan.

Current plans call for the UK's Reaper force to eventually grow to more than 40 aircrews, with this rise to match a fleet-expansion plan outlined last December. Six Reapers have so far been acquired for the RAF under urgent operational requirement deals, and a follow-on order is planned for another five, including one to replace a crashed example.

The additional air vehicles and related equipment will be purchased using funds from the core UK defence budget, but operations will continue to be conducted under the UOR framework.

When called upon, the RAF's Reapers can release their two GBU-12 226kg (500lb) laser-guided bombs and four Lockheed Martin AGM-114P Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, but the service says such force has only been used in around 15% of the sorties flown by the type.

Ball says some work is being conducted to look at possible weapon and sensor enhancements, but that there are no current plans to alter the Reaper's configuration from the version also flown by the US Air Force. Any move to integrate UK-specific weapons such as MBDA's Brimstone missile or Raytheon Systems' Paveway IV precision-guided bomb would carry integration costs, he adds.

"There is no doubt that this is the right airframe for the current campaign," says Ball. Describing the air vehicle as cost-effective, reliable and comparatively fast, he adds: "It is very rare that we don't get airborne because of serviceability-related issues."

12-03-10, 02:51 AM
AirMule looks like it'd be pretty decent for battlefield resupply as well, even though the payload is only 250kg. Do we know the payload for the K-max ?

12-03-10, 02:57 AM
2,721.55 kilos or 6,000 pounds per Kaman's website........

12-03-10, 02:44 PM

SOURCE:Flight International BAE Systems to continue work on Mantis UAV

By Rob Coppinger

BAE Systems has been awarded a contract to continue work on its Mantis unmanned air vehicle that could lead to a major decision on its future with the UK's forthcoming Strategic Defence Review. The work will focus on risk-reduction activities in preparation for a decision to develop an operational Mantis-class vehicle.

The UK's Labour government intends to support Mantis activities until a decision on its future is taken after the SDR, which will be conducted following a general election expected in May.

"The funding must be in place to maintain work on Mantis," says UK minister of state for strategic defence acquisition reform Lord Drayson. "Out of the SDR there must be a clear sense of priorities how [Mantis] develops in the future - I am open to consider that," he said during a visit to BAE's Warton facility in Lancashire on 9 March.

© BAE Systems
The UK's Mantis demonstrator has been flown in Australia

Endorsing UAV technologies as key to the UK economy and aerospace industry, Drayson believes Mantis is attractive because it is entirely UK designed and built. Sovereignty is an issue after the UK's experience on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, he says.

13-03-10, 01:05 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Mikado Down Under

Posted by Nicholas Fiorenza at 3/12/2010 10:05 AM CST

German army photo of Mikado over the Outback by Thomas Probst

The Bundeswehr's Office of the Army has been testing the airworthiness of the Mikroaufklärungsdrohne für den Ortsbereich (Micro Local Area Reconnaissance Drone, abbreviated Mikado) in hot desert climates in southern Australia.

Testing the wind (German army photo by Stefan Heydt)

The mini unmanned aerial vehicle is used to reconnoiter local areas at a range of 500 meters. Twelve Mikados of the first series have been deployed to Afghanistan since last year, but the heat, dust, wind and humidity has affected them differently than the European conditions for which they were developed.

German army photo by Thomas Probst

The second and third series are therefore being tested in southern Australia. One of the problems encountered was temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius overheating Mikado's black antenna, so it was painted white.

16-03-10, 04:00 AM
ST. LOUIS, March 15, 2010 -- The Boeing [NYSE: BA] A160T Hummingbird has successfully completed a cargo delivery demonstration under a U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory contract, proving the unmanned rotorcraft's ability to resupply frontline troops in rough terrain. The Hummingbird met or exceeded all of the demonstration requirements during the tests, conducted March 9 - March 11 at the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Boeing showed that the A160T can deliver at least 2,500 pounds of cargo from one simulated forward-operating base to another 75 nautical miles away in well under the required six hours. The simulated mission carried 1,250-pound sling loads over two 150-nautical-mile round trips, with the A160T operating autonomously on a preprogrammed mission.

"The Hummingbird's performance was outstanding, as we had expected," said Vic Sweberg, director of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Boeing Military Aircraft. "The A160T's capabilities can fulfill our customer's near-term need for 24/7, reliable cargo resupply. It also provides unmatched flexibility to carry out a variety of other missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; target acquisition; direct action; and communication relay."

The A160T completed seven test flights during the demonstration, including a two-minute hover at 12,000 feet with the 1,250-pound sling load, and a nighttime delivery to a simulated forward operating base. The A160T's ability to execute extremely accurate autonomous deliveries also was demonstrated.

The A160T has a 2,500-pound payload capacity. It features a unique optimum-speed-rotor technology that significantly improves overall performance efficiency by adjusting the rotor's speed at different altitudes, gross weights and cruise speeds. The autonomous unmanned aircraft, measuring 35 feet long with a 36-foot rotor diameter, has hovered at 20,000 feet and cruised at more than 140 knots. The A160T established a world endurance record in its class in 2008 with an 18.7-hour unrefueled flight.

16-03-10, 04:44 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalPICTURES: New Aerostar UAV makes first flight

By Arie Egozi

Aeronautics Defense Systems' Aerostar-C unmanned air vehicle has performed its first series of test flights in Israel.

The largest version of the tactical UAV design has a 10m (32.8ft) wingspan, 2.5m wider than that of the basic configuration. The aircraft is powered by a four-stroke fuel injected engine which produces up to 65hp (48kW).

Aeronautics president Avi Leumi says the Aerostar-C will have an operational endurance of 24h and a 300kg (660lb) maximum take-off weight, including an 80kg payload.

© Aeronautics Defense Systems

The new version is aimed mainly at current operators of the Aerostar. Leumi says 131 air vehicles of this type are now in operation with 16 customers.

Last year the Netherlands defence ministry signed a contract worth up to €50 million ($68 million) for the Aerostar system, which is now deployed by Dutch forces in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

© Aeronautics Defense Systems

16-03-10, 11:12 AM
I can tell you, that shot wasn't taken at Utah. Given the aircraft in the picture, I would suggest Victorville in the Mojave Desert.

Wonder why they felt they had to try and cover up the location, then include a picture that makes identification so easy.

Gubler, A.
16-03-10, 11:17 AM
I can tell you, that shot wasn't taken at Utah. Given the aircraft in the picture, I would suggest Victorville in the Mojave Desert.

Wonder why they felt they had to try and cover up the location, then include a picture that makes identification so easy.

Which is also where the USMC has a big presence near by (29 Palms). I doubt the ID was a cover up, more likely a stuff up.

17-03-10, 01:01 AM
Boeing Starts A160T Production

Mar 16, 2010

By Graham Warwick

Boeing has begun company-funded production of a batch of A160T Hummingbirds, anticipating demand for the unmanned helicopter for cargo resupply and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“We loaded the first part into the jig today,” Program Manager Ernie Wattam said March 15. An initial batch of five A160Ts is being produced, the first to be delivered by year’s end, and Boeing plans to fund production of another 16 over the next 18 months.

Production launch comes hard on the heels of Boeing completing an unmanned cargo resupply demonstration with the A160T for the U.S. Marine Corps. The March 9-11 demonstration at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, included six flights over two days.

Lockheed Martin and Kaman completed a similar demonstration in late February, and both companies are awaiting release of a request for proposals by the U.S. Navy seeking early deployment of unmanned helicopters to support the Marine Corps in Afghanistan.

The demonstration required delivery of 2,500 pounds of cargo to a forward operating base 75 nautical miles away within six hours. The A160T carried a 1,250-pound sling load on each trip, completing the required mission “in less than five hours,” Wattam says.

Boeing demonstrated autonomous, preprogrammed delivery as well as the ability of an operator at the forward base to take control of the vehicle via a laptop remote terminal and reposition the drop.

The company is now preparing two A160Ts for a 45-day deployment beginning July 1 to an unidentified country “south of the U.S.,” Wattam says, to test the Forester foliage-penetration radar under a contact for U.S. Special Operations Command.

Initial production A160Ts are being built at Boeing’s Mesa, Ariz., plant to an improved “Block 2” standard with increased redundancy and reliability, he says.

These will be available beginning early in 2011, with leasing of the vehicles an option.

18-03-10, 01:43 AM
New Unmanned Carrier Aircraft Head at Northrop

By christopher p. cavas

Published: 17 Mar 2010 16:20

Northrop Grumman has appointed a new head of its X-47B unmanned aircraft program, barely two weeks after the U.S. Navy named a new program manager for the unmanned carrier air system demonstrator program.

Janis Pamiljans, previously vice president and program manager of Northrop's aerial refueling tanker bid for the U.S. Air Force, takes over for Scott Winship as vice president of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS) program. Pamiljans also has worked as a program manager on the F/A-18 and F-35 strike fighter programs.

Capt. Jeff Penfield took over the Navy's X-47B program office on March 2, replacing Capt. Martin Deppe, who is retiring "for personal reasons," according to Navy officials.

Winship, who ran Northrop's N-UCAS effort for two years, will stay with the company.

"The depth and breadth of his expertise is significant," said Northrop spokesperson Cyndi Wegerbauer. "He's moving to other game-changing initiatives."

The personnel moves come as the effort to build and fly a prototype, unmanned jet combat aircraft from an aircraft carrier has fallen months behind schedule. The first of two development aircraft had been intended to take to the air for the first time last November, but the aircraft is still in ground taxi tests in California.

Penfield, in a March 5 interview, acknowledged the delays, but pending a program review could not set a date for the first test flight.

"I cannot tell you how far off," he said. "We've said we're going to fly later this year. My goal is to tell you precisely when we will fly later this year."

19-03-10, 02:02 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalUntethered hover flight for Mule slips to mid-year

By Arie Egozi

Urban Aeronautics has delayed the first untethered hover of its AirMule ducted fan propelled unmanned air vehicle until mid-year to ensure that all systems are functioning.

Urban had planned to achieve the milestone this month, but company president Rafi Yoeli says: "We are now preparing the craft for the next phase, and are moving slowly to ensure all the systems function. When we complete this we will go to free flight."

The Israeli firm is fitting the UAV's sensors to support free flight activities, Yoeli says. These include a laser altimeter, differential GPS and an inertial measurement unit.

© Urban Aeronautics

AirMule is an all-composite single-engined vertical take-off and landing cargo and medical evacuation UAV. With a fuel consumption of up to 150kg (330lb) per hour depending on its speed, the useful payload for a 1h mission will be about 400kg.

The UAV's flight control will be achieved using an Urban system that relies almost entirely on inertial measurements augmented by GPS signals.

Powered by a 730hp (544kW)-rated Turbomeca Arriel-1D1 engine, the ducted fan AirMule should deliver a top speed of 100kt (185km/h), with a climb rate of 6,000ft/min (30.4m/s). The air vehicle is 5.9m (19.3ft) long and 2.15m wide, with a maximum take-off weight of 1,090kg.

19-03-10, 02:04 AM

SOURCE:Flight InternationalBoeing restarts A160 production before receiving new orders

By Stephen Trimble

In a shift away from traditional practice for a major US defence contractor, Boeing has decided to restart production of its A160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter despite the lack of a new order.

The industry typically waits for the US military to define a requirement or award a contract before launching an aircraft into low-rate production, but Boeing began assembling the first of 21 new A160s on 15 March, says programme manager Ernie Wattam.

The white-tail A160s will start being available for sale or leased as a service to military and government agencies starting in early 2011.

Manufacturing has been relocated from Victorville, California, to Boeing's military rotorcraft hub in Mesa, Arizona, and the production aircraft will be slightly different from the 10 prototypes developed under contracts with US Special Operations Command, the Applied Aviation Technology Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, says Wattam.

© Boeing

He says Boeing is continuing to review its business strategy for A160, but options include offering the aircraft as both a government-owned and contractor-owned system.

Boeing's A160 strategy follows the example set by its Insitu subsidiary, which developed the SeaScan unmanned air system in the late 1990s. The vehicle was rebranded as the ScanEagle a few years later and offered to the US Marine Corps.

Boeing has improved the A160's redundancy in control systems. The production version also includes weatherisation improvements and metal leading edges.

"We're trying to anticipate what configuration what will do the job," Wattam says. "So far the answer [from potential customers] has been, 'yeah, we think you got it'."

The A160 has been in development for more than 10 years, recording a record-breaking 18h flight for an unmanned helicopter in 2008. Designed by Predator inventor Abe Karem, the A160 features optimum speed rotor technology that varies engine power in hover and cruise modes.

But customers have been slow to acquire the aircraft after DARPA completed most development activity in late 2008.

Boeing has recently demonstrated the A160 to the US Navy as an unmanned cargo aircraft. The aircraft showed the capability to haul a 1,133kg (2,500lb) external load 140km (75nm) away within 6h, Wattam says.

The A160 is competing for a potential contract award to deploy an unmanned aircraft to deliver cargo in Afghanistan. The Kaman/Lockheed Martin K-Max helicopter also has demonstrated the same capability to the USN.

Meanwhile, SOCOM continues to show interest in the A160's unique capabilities as a long-endurance rotorcraft. Two A160s will be deployed to South America shortly to demonstrate the Forester foliage penetration radar.

SOCOM has previously discussed plans to order as many as 20 A160s, which would be redesigned the YMQ-18.

20-03-10, 01:30 AM
U.K. To Launch Long-Endurance UAV Acquisition

Mar 19, 2010

By Douglas Barrie

The U.K. plans to kick off competition for a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle in the third quarter, with funding for this phase of the program recently approved.

The go-ahead for the assessment phase of the Operational Unmanned Aerial System (OUAS)—and associated funding—also appears to have avoided a potential gap in financing the development of a main contender for the requirement, the BAE Systems-led Mantis.

The OUAS is intended to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, with the platform also capable of weapons delivery.

Mantis, the EADS Talarion and likely the General Atomics Predator C Avenger will be candidates for the Defense Ministry’s requirement, presently in the concept phase.

The first stage of the Defense Ministry and industry-funded Mantis—so called Spiral 1—is now nearing completion. Had the launch of the OUAS assessment phase slipped beyond the pending Strategic Defense Review this would have raised funding concerns about the Mantis, risking a hiatus in the project as the ministry re-examined its overall procurement program.

“The OUAS assessment phase is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, subject to the normal [MOD] approvals process,” says a Defense Ministry official. “Mantis will be one contender in the assessment phase and no firm commitments have been made with respect to future funding.”

Some industry sources say the assessment phase for the OUAS has very recently been given the go ahead by the ministry’s Investment Approvals Board as part of Planning Round 10.

The BAE Systems-led Mantis Spiral 1 development culminated in a series of test flights at the end of 2009, the only stage of the Mantis program for which funding had previously been approved.

Paul Drayson, minister for defense acquisition reform, says “funding is in place” to “maintain momentum” on Mantis, but also emphasized that the defense review has to be worked through.

“BAE Systems will continue to work with the Defense Ministry to understand the future direction of the program, part of which includes defining the next spiral development schedule,” says a company executive. The so-called Spiral 2 phase of Mantis would develop the system to at least an initial operation standard.

Sophisticated UAV and unmanned combat air vehicle procurement is also viewed within the government as a mechanism for potential renewed collaboration with France in developing advanced air systems. BAE and Dassault are already in exploratory talks as where they might be able to work together.

The Mantis UAV arrived back in the U.K. last week, having been transported from the Woomera test range in Australia on board an RAF Boeing C-17. Around six test-flights—including operationally representative missions—were carried out using the Woomera range as part of the Spiral 1 program.

Drayson, speaking on Mar. 9 at BAE Systems’ Warton facility which is developing the Mantis, noted: “Mantis was designed in the U.K. and built in the U.K. —the first aircraft with full sovereign control in 40 years.”

Operational sovereignty is a key issue for the Defense Ministry—and wider government—in determining which defense technology capabilities are to be retained at a national level. The Drayson-inspired 2005 Defense Industrial Strategy identified UAVs and unmanned combat air vehicles as one such area.

Drayson says the industrial strategy will be revisited as part of the defense review, which will get rolling immediately following a national election, widely anticipated to be held in early May.

“While they [UAVs] are up for discussion during DIS [Defense Industrial Strategy] 2—just like other capabilities —they stand for the potential of the U.K. defense and security industry. They epitomize the shift toward an ever- greater reliance on more sophisticated equipment—using the most advanced science and engineering to keep us safe and to support our troops. So I expect the U.K. to go on . . . designing them here, making them here.”

The ministry has already confirmed that the OUAS “assessment phase may well consider a collaborative development and production solution”.

Similarly the Taranis UCAV demonstrator, now undergoing ground testing at BAE’s Warton site, could be a precursor to Anglo-French collaboration. Although ground testing has begun later than originally planned, a first flight remains on track for this year. Integration of the propulsion element of the air vehicle, including the low-observable intake and exhaust sections, may have proved more challenging than was anticipated.

Photo: BAE Systems

23-03-10, 04:35 PM
Rocket-Launched ‘Rapid Eye’ Drone’s Rapid Demise

By Nathan Hodge March 23, 2010 | 9:14 am

Drones are an indispensable tool in modern warfare: They can loiter for hours, providing crucial surveillance of distant targets. But what if you need to get a drone somewhere in a hurry?

That was the idea behind Rapid Eye. In 2007, Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out science arm, announced plans to package a folding drone inside the nose cone of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The concept was fairly straightforward: In the event of an emerging crisis, you could launch Rapid Eye. Within an hour, the drone would be on station, and once its mission was complete, it could be replaced by another long-loitering, pilotless aircraft.

Tony Tether, the previous director of Darpa, was a fan of the idea. But the rocket-launched drone had some serious conceptual flaws. For starters, lobbing an ICBM across the planet without warning could be mistaken for a surprise nuclear attack. That’s the same general issue that plagues other high-speed, hit-anywhere-in-the-world weapons concepts like Prompt Global Strike. If you want to put non-nuclear payloads like a drone or a conventional warhead on a ballistic missile, you need to make sure you don’t trigger Armageddon.

In a statement to Danger Room, Darpa spokeswoman Johanna Jones confirmed the cancellation of Rapid Eye. “Program and budget priorities resulted in DARPA not continuing to fund the Rapid Eye program,” she said.

But she added that the program reached its 2009 goals, including a “risk management, technology development and system maturation plan” and completion of “conceptual design and system requirements.”

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/03/rocket-launched-rapid-eye-drones-rapid-demise/#more-23359#ixzz0j0i2hHO3

24-03-10, 04:20 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

General Atomics attracts first customer for Avenger UAV, claims Lockheed

By Stephen Trimble

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has attracted a customer for its stealthy and secretive Avenger unmanned air system, but as a high-altitude surveillance platform, a prospective subsystem supplier says.

A customer has demanded that General Atomics install "Global Hawk-like" payloads on the Avenger, says Don Bolling, a Lockheed Martin senior business development manager.

The company had previously agreed to install Lockheed's electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on the Avenger, but that effort is on hold due to the undisclosed customer's interest in the high-altitude mission, Bolling says.

Bolling declined to identify the interested customer. General Atomics has sold the Avenger's two predecessors - the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper - to a wide range of buyers, including US and foreign militaries, intelligence groups and civilian government agencies.

General Atomics declines to comment about Bolling's statements about the Avenger, which is designed to fly to up to 60,000ft (18,300m).

© General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Lockheed's statements raise the Avenger's profile as a high-altitude surveillance platform. The design was widely considered a next-generation replacement for the Predator/Reaper family, but it may also serve as an alternative to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The decision to put the EOTS integration effort on hold is a setback to Lockheed's attempts to adapt the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's targeting forward-looking infrared camera and infrared search and track (IRST) sensor to other stealthy aircraft.

Lockheed also has discussed integrating the EOTS as a passive imaging sensor on the Northrop B-2 bomber, but those discussions have also not yielded progress, Bolling says. He attributes the reluctance on EOTS to the B-2 programme's familiarity with synthetic aperture radar systems.

Lockheed continues to believe that the F-35's targeting system can be adapted for future stealthy aircraft, such as the MQ-X requirement for a Predator/Reaper replacement, and a need for a next-generation bomber.

Meanwhile, Lockheed has delivered the first production-configuration EOTS to the F-35 flight-test programme. The system is scheduled to be installed on the co-operative avionics testbed aircraft in April and enter flight testing in June, Bolling says.

The system's IRST sensor will initially provide a 60° azimuth scan capability. A planned processor upgrade will increase the scan window to 120°, Bolling says.

24-03-10, 04:30 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Navy looks to develop unmanned, stealthy combat aircraft on mature technologies

By Stephen Trimble

The US Navy will start developing within 10 years a stealthy, carrier-based, unmanned air system to participate in a category of combat that US officials now describe as irregular and hybrid warfare.

A request for information issued to industry on 19 March reveals USN officials are planning to develop the unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. The need has been identified by the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, or "N2/N6" in the USN's nomenclature.

The notional system would include four to six air vehicles, each capable of flying 11-14h without refuelling, according to the RFI.

The aircraft would be loaded with sensors and weapons. Attacks would be initiated by a human, rather than allow the vehicle to attack targets autonomously, the document says.

© Northrop Grumman

Moreover, the UCLASS system would be available for limited operational use by the end of 2018, allowing carrier-based aviation a new degree of versatility in long-range combat operations, the RFI says.

The USN's timetable suggests the need for a rapid development programme using mature technology.

The RFI's notional requirements appear to call for an aircraft similar to the Northrop Grumman X-47B. Northrop is preparing to launch flight trials later this year under the USN's unmanned combat air system-demonstration (UCAS-D) programme.

Other manufacturers are developing challengers to the X-47B, which include the Boeing Phantom Ray and General Atomics Avenger. Neither, however, is known to be funded by the USN to demonstrate carrier-based operations.

The X-47B is designed to carry a 2,040kg (4,500lb) payload of weapons and sensors off a carrier deck. The aircraft is expected to achieve an unrefuelled range with a full mission payload of 3,880km (2,100nm), which appears too short for the USN's UCLASS requirement.

The X-47B's UCAS-D programme survived a funding scare in mid-2007. At the time, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Robert Work, launched a successful public campaign to restore the programme's funding. Work now serves in the Obama administration as the under secretary of the navy.

25-03-10, 01:19 AM
DOD Could Achieve Greater Commonality and Efficiencies among Its Unmanned Aircraft Systems

07:41 GMT, March 24, 2010

For the last several years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has planned to invest billions of dollars in development and procurement of unmanned aircraft systems. In its fiscal year 2011 budget request the department indicated a significant increase in these investments, expecting to need more than $24 billion from 2010 through 2015. DOD recognizes that to leverage its resources more effectively, it must achieve greater commonality among the military services’ unmanned aircraft system acquisition programs.

This testimony is based primarily on GAO’s July 2009 report (GAO-09-520) which examined 10 unmanned aircraft acquisition programs: eight unmanned aircraft systems—Global Hawk, Reaper, Shadow, Predator, Sky Warrior, Fire Scout, Broad Area Maritime Surveillance, and Unmanned Combat Aircraft System-Demonstration; and two payload development programs—Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, and Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload. The testimony focuses on: 1) the cost, schedule, and performance progress of the 10 programs as of July 2009; 2) the extent to which the military services collaborated and identified commonality among the programs; 3) factors influencing the effectiveness of the collaboration; and, 4) recent DOD investment decisions related to these acquisitions.

What GAO Found

Most of the 10 programs reviewed had experienced cost increases, schedule delays, performance shortfalls, or some combination of these problems. The programs’ development cost estimates increased by more than $3 billion collectively, or 37 percent, from initial estimates. Procurement funding requirements for most programs also increased, primarily because of increases in numbers of aircraft being procured, changes in system requirements, and upgrades and retrofits to fielded systems. Procurement unit costs increased by an average of 12 percent, with three aircraft programs experiencing unit cost increases of 25 percent or more. Four programs reported delays of 1 year or more in delivering capability to the warfighter. Global Hawk, Predator, Reaper, and Shadow had been used in combat operations with success and lessons learned, but had been rushed into service in some cases, leading to performance issues and delays in development and operational testing and verification.

Programs collaborated and identified areas of commonality to varying degrees. The Marine Corps was able to avoid the cost of initial system development and quickly deliver useful capability to the warfighter by choosing to procure existing Army Shadow systems. The Navy expected to save time and money on Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) by using Air Force’s Global Hawk airframe, and payloads and subsystems from other programs. However, Army and Air Force had not collaborated on their Sky Warrior and Predator programs, and might have achieved greater savings if they had, given that Sky Warrior is a variant of Predator and being developed by the same contractor. DOD encouraged more commonality between these programs.

Although several programs achieved airframe commonality, service-driven acquisition processes and ineffective collaboration were key factors that inhibited commonality among subsystems, payloads, and ground control stations, raising concerns about potential inefficiencies and duplication. Despite DOD’s efforts to emphasize a joint approach to identifying needs and commonality among systems, most of the programs assessed continued to pursue service-unique requirements. The services also made independent resource allocation decisions to support their unique requirements. DOD had not quantified the costs and benefits associated with pursuing commonality among these programs, and efforts to collaborate had produced mixed results. However, in order to maximize acquisition resources and meet increased demand, Congress and DOD have continued to push for more commonality.

Since July 2009, DOD has made several investment decisions regarding unmanned aircraft systems, which in general, reflect increased emphasis on developing advanced capabilities and acquiring larger numbers of specific systems. However, the decisions do not appear to focus on increasing collaboration or commonality among the programs.

The full report (GAO-10-508T) can be viewed here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10508t.pdf

25-03-10, 01:28 AM
Fire Scout Continues Testing With U.S. Army

Mar 24, 2010

By Bettina H. Chavanne
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

When Woody Allen said 80% of success is showing up, he could have been referring to Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout. Despite the U.S. Army’s recent decision to eliminate the vertical-takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) from its Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) program, Northrop Grumman continues to fly and test Fire Scout for and with the service.

The company has invested heavily in testing its corporate-owned aircraft in preparation for what it thought would be a 2014 fielding for the Army. The Army’s January notification to Congress that Fire Scout was “no longer required,” came just as Northrop Grumman was beginning a month-long demonstration of the aircraft’s capabilities for the service. Inadvertently, the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Ft. Benning, Ga., has become an adverti sement for just how suitable the Fire Scout is for the Army’s needs.

“The Army owns them,” says Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, referring to the eight Fire Scouts the service purchased. “I don’t blame [us] for continuing to figure out how to use them. They’re just expensive.” Vane is director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (Arcic), and oversees the integration BCTM program elements. Neither he nor his civilian counterpart, Rickey Smith, director of Arcic-Forward, dispute the utility of Fire Scout or any unmanned vertical lift platform. The issue comes down to cost.

When Fire Scout was taken off the BCTM integration kit list, the Army noted, “the current Shadow [UAV] can meet future Army requirements with product improvements.” Smith says this is an example of a “resource-benefit assessment. How much can an upgraded Shadow do?” Fire Scout “will haul more, but what does it cost to operate? That’s what the assessment boils down to.”

AEWE not only allowed Northrop Grumman the opportunity to demonstrate a whole host of Fire Scout’s talents, but did so in a purely Army environment. This was not just a corporate test out at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona—although those tests have also proven the aircraft’s ability to interact easily with the Army’s One System-Remote Video Terminal. The Army’s OSRVT is a video and data system that allows soldiers to access live surveillance images from a UAV.

Company announcements heralding Fire Scout’s performance at AEWE, which wrapped up Feb. 11, poured in on an almost-weekly basis. In one instance, Fire Scout performed an autonomous cargo resupply mission, carrying two ruggedized containers attached to external pylons. Between cargo drop and landing, the aircraft used its electro-optical/infrared payload to practice reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition techniques (RSTA), something the Army has stressed as mission-critical.

On another flight, Fire Scout was equipped with Raytheon’s Mobile Ad hoc Interoperability Network Gateway (Maingate), a communications payload. It used Maingate, which is attached to an external pod, to relay communications among ground troops, who could then share real-time video, voice and data communications.

Finally, Fire Scout deployed an unmanned ground vehicle. The aircraft flew to a pre-planned landing point, the UGV was released and then Fire Scout hovered above to observe the vehicle and relay commands from the controller to the UGV. All the while, Fire Scout operated autonomously.

Fire Scout also has champions in Congress. The Army’s eight Fire Scouts currently reside in the home state of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who recently voiced his disappointment with the Army’s cancellation of its VTUAV effort. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey promised Wicker he would investigate VTUAV options and have an answer by the end of April. The Army plans to release a long-term UAV strategy in mid-April, and it will surely contain some guidance related to vertical lift options.

“There are operational requirements that are emerging that we haven’t previously used UAVs for, and the principal one is cargo,” Vane says. “Whether or not Fire Scout can be a competitor for a potential cargo UAV remains to be seen. But we do see an emerging need.” The Marine Corps is busy evaluating just such a capability and Vane says the Army is keeping an eye on its sister service, noting there is the potential for a Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration agreement on cargo UAVs in the future. A rotary wing capability “just seems to make the most sense,” Vane says. Northrop Grumman couldn’t agree more.

Northrop Grumman Concept

25-03-10, 03:38 AM
03-24-2010 17:22

[Exclusive] S. Korean Army to Deploy UAVs for Division Missions

NI-100N built by Korea Aerospace Industries

By Jung Sung-ki
Staff Reporter

The South Korean Army will deploy 33 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its division-level units by 2014 in an effort to boost the country’s intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability in line with the planned transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. military to South Korea in 2012.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will approve the plan next Monday to purchase the UAVs from a domestic aircraft manufacturer through a bidding process this year, a source said.

The agency will spend 430 billion won ($378 million) to acquire the UAVs, he said.

The Army currently operates five sets of corps-level battlefield reconnaissance RQ-101 UAVs, each set including six aircraft, a launcher and a ground-control station.

The agency has increased the requirement for the number of reconnaissance drones to be operated at division level from an original plan to prepare for the takeover of the wartime command, the source said. How to execute the country’s independent ISR missions is key to the command transition.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the maker of the RQ-101, and Korean Air Aerospace, the manufacturing division of the airline, are preparing bids.

KAI will offer the lightweight tactical Night Intruder NI-100N, or D-UAV, that uses a parachute recovery system. The model is a modified variant of the NI-100, which uses a net recovery system.

The prototype of the NI-100N underwent successful test trials last year and is waiting on more upgrades to meet the Army’s requirements, a KAI official said.

“With its compact size and lightweight air vehicle and ground control station equipped with data link, launcher and parachute/airbag recovery system, the NI-100N is an optimum UAV solution for the Army’s ISR needs,” the official said.

The UAV is retrieved by soft landing, with the assistance of a parafoil and inflatable airbag. By using the parachute recovery system and a lighter launcher, troops can conduct missions in almost all field environments and weather conditions with mobility, as it allows air vehicle recovery on unprepared terrain, the official said.

The 2.5-meter-long UAV has a service ceiling of three kilometers and a mission radius of 60 kilometers. It can operate for up to six hours and has a speed of 90 to 180 kilometers per hour. Its maximum takeoff weight is 100 kilograms.

KUS-9 developed by Korean Air

Korean Air is expected to offer its KUS-9, made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic.

The aircraft has a boom-mounted tail and lands by flying into a net at a speed as low as 90 kilometers per hour.

The KUS-9 has a service ceiling of four kilometers and a maximum speed of 200 kilometer per hour, according to Korean Air officials.

The aircraft has a cruise speed of 140 kilometers per hour and an endurance of six hours. Its maximum range for communications is 60 kilometers.

Korean Air, a national flag carrier, was selected in 2008 to develop a homegrown medium-altitude UAV to be operational after 2016.

It will develop and integrate the spy plane’s fuselage and related systems, including a ground-control station and mission equipment package, in cooperation with the state-funded Agency for Defense Development.

Following three years of preliminary research and development between 2008 and 2011, the company will begin full-scale development and integration between 2012 and 2016.


26-03-10, 11:31 AM
U.S. looks to export drone technology to allies

Phil Stewart


Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:55pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday he hoped to export coveted U.S. drone technology to allies, despite legal hurdles, and played down the threat from rival drone programs in nations like Iran.

Gates, testifying at a Senate hearing, said it was in the U.S. interest to try to help friendly nations get drone technology, despite limitations on exports imposed by an international pact.

"There are other countries that are very interested in this capability and frankly it is, in my view, in our interest to see what we can do to accommodate them," Gates said.

The drones have proven to be a crucial technological advantage for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, allowing it to remotely track and kill insurgents and giving troops eyes-in-the-sky battleground imagery in real time.

The CIA has used drones armed with missiles to ramp up its covert campaign to kill al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan.

"The reality is so far we have been in situations where (drone) technology cannot be used, or has not been used against our troops anywhere," Gates said.

But that might not remain the case, he said. He cited Iran, which he has said is providing limited support to Afghan insurgents, and which is developing unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

"Iran has UAVs and that is a concern because it is one of those areas where I suppose if they chose to, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, they could create difficulties for us," Gates said.

Still, he called UAVs "relatively slow flyers" that could be neutralized by the Air Force if they threatened U.S. forces.

"I actually think our ability to protect our troops from these things particularly in a theater of combat like this is actually quite good," he said.

Militant groups, as opposed to other countries, were a bigger concern when it came to the spread of drone technology.

"My worry would be capabilities like this getting into the hands of non-state actors who could use them for terrorist purposes," Gates said.


The U.S. aerospace industry estimated in December that U.S. military demand for unmanned aircraft would double over the next five years after rising 600 percent since 2004. It is also hoping for growth abroad.

The industry wants to change the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, a pact among at least 34 countries aimed at curbing the spread of unmanned delivery systems that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.

Gates said he shared concerns of lawmakers about the spread of the technology to adversaries and "about these capabilities getting into the hands of those who are our adversaries."

But he also said the United States had only sold UAVs to Italy and Britain so far.

"With respect to export ... I think there are some specific cases where we have allies with whom we have formal treaty alliances who have expressed interest in these capabilities," he said.

"And we have told them that we are limited in what we can do by the MTCR, but I think it's something we need to pursue with them."

Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, which provides surveillance capabilities, has drawn interest from countries including South Korea, Japan and Singapore as well as Britain, Spain and Canada, a company spokeswoman said in December.

Washington announced plans to give Pakistan surveillance drones but Islamabad also wants shoot-and-kill drones, like the Predator, which may be armed with Hellfire missiles.

(Editing by Eric Beech)

27-03-10, 01:49 AM
Drone Attacks Are Legit Self-Defense, Says State Dept. Lawyer

By Nathan Hodge March 26, 2010 | 12:57 pm

America’s undeclared drone war has been controversial, for any number of reasons: Pakistani politicians have cried foul over “counterproductive” strikes. Critics worry they may create more popular support for militants. And civil liberties groups have asked whether, in effect, it amounts to a program of targeted killing.

Now the State Department’s top legal adviser has offered a rationale for the ongoing campaign: Legitimate self-defense.

In a keynote address last night to the American Society of International Law, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said it was “the considered view of this administration” that drone operations, including lethal attacks, “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.”

Al Qaeda and its allies, he continued, have not abandoned plans to attack the United States. “Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks,” he said.

It’s worth giving a closer look at the speech, excerpted here by ASIL. But this is not likely to appease critics of the drone war. Most recently, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Defense Department, the State Department and the Justice Department, demanding that the government provide more details about the legal basis of the drone war, including details about who authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are cleared and the rate of civilian casualties.

Koh addressed several of the concerns raised by rights groups:

Some have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law…. Some have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict — such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs — so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war…. Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.

Obviously, this doesn’t end the controversy, but the administration has made it quite clear it sees no legal reason to scale back the escalating drone war.

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/03/drone-attacks-legit-self-defense-says-administration-lawyer/#more-23429#ixzz0jKUuTaRF

29-03-10, 04:35 PM
Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Comprehensive Planning and a Results-Oriented Training Strategy Are Needed to Support Growing Inventories

(Source: Government Accountability Office; issued March 26, 2010)

The Department of Defense (DOD) requested about $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2010 for new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and for expanded capabilities in existing ones. To support ongoing operations, the Air Force and Army have acquired a greater number of larger systems.

GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) plans were in place to account for the personnel, facilities, and communications infrastructure needed to support Air Force and Army UAS inventories; (2) DOD addressed challenges that affect the ability of the Air Force and the Army to train personnel for UAS operations; and (3) DOD updated its publications that articulate doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures to reflect the knowledge gained from using UAS in ongoing operations.

Focusing on UAS programs supporting ongoing operations, GAO reviewed the services' program and funding plans in light of DOD's requirements definition and acquisition policy; interviewed UAS personnel in the United States and in Iraq about training experiences; and reviewed joint, multiservice, and service-specific publications.

DOD continues to increase UAS inventories, but in some cases, the Air Force and the Army lack robust plans that account for the personnel, facilities, and some communications infrastructure to support them. Regarding personnel, the Air Force and the Army have identified limitations in their approaches to provide personnel to meet current and projected UAS force levels, but they have not yet fully developed plans to supply needed personnel.

Further, although DOD has recently requested funding and plans to request additional funds, the Air Force and the Army have not completed analyses to specify the number and type of facilities needed to support UAS training and operations. Having identified a vulnerability to the communications infrastructure network used to control UAS missions, the Air Force is taking steps to mitigate the risk posed by a natural or man-made disruption to the network but has not formalized a plan in the near term to provide for the continuity of UAS operations in the event of a disruption.

While DOD guidance encourages planning for factors needed to operate and sustain a weapon system program in the long term, several factors have contributed to a lag in planning efforts, such as the rapid fielding of new systems and the expansion of existing ones.

In the absence of comprehensive planning, DOD does not have reasonable assurance that Air Force and Army approaches will support current and projected UAS inventories. The lack of comprehensive plans also limits the ability of decision makers to make informed funding choices. DOD has not developed a results-oriented strategy to resolve challenges that affect the ability of the Air Force and the Army to train personnel for UAS operations.

GAO found that the limited amount of DOD-managed airspace adversely affected the amount of training that personnel conducted to prepare for deployments. As UAS are fielded in greater numbers, DOD will require access to more airspace for training; for example, DOD estimated that based on planned UAS inventories in fiscal year 2013, the military services will require more than 1 million flight hours to train UAS personnel within the United States.

Further, Air Force UAS personnel and Army ground units have limited opportunities to train together in a joint environment, and they have not maximized the use of available assets during training. Current UAS simulators also have limited capabilities to enhance training. DOD has commenced initiatives to address training challenges, but it has not developed a results-oriented strategy to prioritize and synchronize these efforts.

Absent a strategy, DOD will not have a sound basis for prioritizing resources, and it cannot be assured that the initiatives will address limitations in Air Force and Army training approaches. In many cases, DOD's UAS publications articulating doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures did not include updated information needed by manned and unmanned aircraft operators, military planners, and ground units to understand current practices and capabilities.

Such information can serve as the foundation for effective joint training programs and can assist military personnel in integrating UAS on the battlefield.

Click here for the full report (56 pages in PDF format) on the GAO website.



29-03-10, 04:41 PM
Indra Develops Unmanned Helicopter for Naval Missions

(Source: Indra; issued March 29, 2010)

Indra, with the support of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism along with the Ministry of Defence, started up an R&D project to develop an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) of rotary wings and with dual use, either for civil or defence fields. The system will be launched in 2012 and will be one of the first worldwide to meet mission needs of any naval force.

The system can run for 24 hours a day for a month. It was initially conceived for surveillance, maritime traffic control, border control and support of rescue missions. However, once regulations allow manned and unmanned aircraft to coexist in air space, the Pelicano system will give support in emergency situations or will watch infrastructures, among other applications.

Regarding its potential uses for naval ships, its accurate and automatic vertical takeoff and landing capacity (AVTOL) and its medium size (3.3 meter rotor diameter and around 200 kg maximum take-off weight) make it the perfect solution for ships. It can also adapt to meet the needs of the Army and Security Corps.

The system consists of three or four helicopters and a fully interoperable control station which will receive the information collected in the air in real time. The solution is based on a tactical helicopter with a 100 km operational range and capable of flying at 3,600 meters high. For its development, Indra signed an agreement with the Swedish company Cybaero and will use the APID60 platform which is currently in use.

Based on the platform, Indra will build a complex mission system. The system will incorporate night-vision infrared electro-optical sensors, capable of capturing high-resolution images at great heights. The company will also supply a thorough terrain segment which will control the helicopter and will receive images in real time and a secure communication link with a suitable bandwidth.

Pelicano can be integrated with the vessels command system, becoming an extension of the embarked radars and sensors.

The mission system includes an IFF transponder, an identification component, and is also prepared to carry a light-weight radar, electronic intelligence systems and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threat detection sensors.

Leaders in UAV

The increasing needs of remote sensing functions during sustained operations, has boosted the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as the ideal platforms. Indra’s experience and knowledge in the electro-optical systems and radars contribute to Research and Development in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) sector.

Indra has successfully led, along with EADS, the startup of the first tactical UAV system which the Spanish Army has used in a real scenario: PASI (Intelligence Autonomous Sensorised Platform) based on the Searcher Mk III UAV. The company has also developed a tactical system called Albhatros based on fixed-wing aircrafts and the Mantis mini UAVs.

Within the Atlante programme led by EADS for the development of a tactical long-range UAV, the company is in charge of the communications systems, electro-optical sensors, identification (IFF) and the image exploitation software.

In addition, Indra is engaged along with EADS and Thales in the design of the AURA radar which will be employed by strategic UAVs and in the development of the HORUS radar which will be embarked on helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Besides this, the Spanish company participates in the MIDCAS European project, which seeks to develop a Sense & Avoid system for UAVs to detect and avoid other aircraft in civil air space automatically. Finally in 2010 Indra was awarded a contract with the European Space Agency and in cooperation with the European Defence Agency to study the possibility of UAVs to coexist with civil aircraft in air space by using satellite communications systems.

Indra is the premier Information Technology company in Spain and a leading IT multinational in Europe and Latin America. It is ranked as the second European company in its sector according to stock market capitalisation, and also the second Spanish company with the most investment in R&D. In 2009, revenues reached € 2,513 M, of which a third came from the international market. The company employs more than 29,000 professionals and has clients in more than 100 countries.


30-03-10, 01:09 AM
U.S. Navy Seeks ISR, Strike UAVs

Mar 29, 2010

By Guy Norris
Los Angeles

Industry players have until early May to respond to a U.S. Navy request for information (RFI) for a carrier-based, stealthy, unmanned, strike and surveillance system capable of integrating with manned aircraft as part of a carrier air wing by 2018.

The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (Uclass) RFI calls for a notional system made up of 4-6 autonomously launched and recoverable vehicles to operate in “irregular and hybrid warfare scenarios.” The system must be able to operate from CVN-68 and -78-class carriers, and be capable of being directed from both carrier- and shore-based mission control stations. The stealthy UAV must be able to receive fuel from hose-and-drogue Navy-style tankers as well as from probe-equipped U.S. Air Force tankers.

Despite the air-to-air refueling option, the Uclass unrefueled mission endurance will be at least 11-14 hr., with inclusion of an “appropriate” reserve fuel quantity. The aircraft should also be capable of using “lethal precision weapons to suppress, defeat, destroy, deceive or influence a range of enemy targets,” and will likely be configured with folding wings and tie-down points. The RFI also holds the door open for other fixed-wing configurations, but essentially paints a picture of something closely resembling potentially larger versions of the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator, or the recently unveiled Boeing Phantom Ray or General Atomics’ Avenger.

The release of the RFI was anticipated following comments about the upcoming initiative by Rear Adm. William Shannon, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, who was speaking Feb. 17 at Aviation Week’s Defense Technology and Requirements conference in Washington. Shannon said the next phase of the program could be worth as much as $2 billion, with major funding starting in Fiscal 2013.

Shannon also added that the RFI is not automatically an extension of Northrop Grumman’s work with the X-47B, now preparing to be moved to Edwards AFB, Calif., for high-speed taxi tests following a recent run of ground tests at the company’s nearby Palmdale facility. The company states: “We have accomplished low- and medium-speed taxi tests and will continue system and software development before transitioning to Edwards AFB later this year.”

The X-47B is meant to demonstrate carrier suitability of a stealthy, tailless unmanned aircraft, whereas the Uclass extends this concept to include a broader role of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike missions. First flight, delayed from late last year by additional work on the brake control software and exhaust system, is expected this summer; the first carrier landing is slated for late 2011.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

31-03-10, 12:09 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Northrop puts Global Hawk on show in Japan

By Leithen Francis

Northrop Grumman has been making a major push in Japan for its RQ-4 Global Hawk in an effort to have procurement of such unmanned air vehicles included in the country's next five-year plan.

Japanese military and defence officials were able to see a full-scale model of the Global Hawk on display in Tokyo on 24-25 March. Japan was the last stop in an Asia-Pacific tour that also saw the Global Hawk model displayed in Australia, Hawaii, Guam and Singapore.

Japan's defence establishment has been studying the Global Hawk for several years and Northrop's latest marketing push comes as it works to formulate its five-year fiscal plan for 2011-15.

If Japan orders the Global Hawk it would need to get US government export approval.

"Capable of flying well above all civil air traffic at altitudes of up to 60,000ft [18,300m] for the more than 32h at a time, Global Hawk is a suitable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset for Japan," says Curt Orchard, Northrop Grumman international vice-president for Japan.

Japan has a need for greater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability because it has three potentially hostile neighbours: China, North Korea and Russia.

Tokyo and Beijing have territorial disputes over outlying islands and sea borders, while Pyongyang continues to test missiles - some of which have flown over Japan - and Moscow occupies the Kuril islands, some of which it annexed from Japan in the last days of the Second World War.

Northrop says the Global Hawk "is the only unmanned air system to receive both US Air Force and US Federal Aviation Administration certificate of authority allowing routine operation in civil air space."

The Global Hawk's range of 16,100km (10,000nm) means a single mission can span north-east and South-East Asia, it says.

01-04-10, 01:51 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Brock Technologies' Spear UAV completes flight demonstrations

By Rob Coppinger

Brock Technologies' Spear unmanned air vehicle completed a series of flight demonstrations between January and March with payloads ranging from 2.27kg (5lb) to 5.9kg.

Spear is powered by an electric motor and has a maximum dash speed of 50kt (92.5km/h) and a stall speed of 30kt. It demonstrated endurances in excess of 1h with a payload greater than 5.45kg including a gimballed camera. Spear can be launched by hand or from a vehicle and is recovered via belly skid landing.

Spear can change its configuration for different payloads with a modular approach that includes forward and aft payload bays and a range of wing spans. While the standard design has a 3.63kg empty weight it comes with wings with spans from 3.05m (10ft) to 4.27m.

Vail, Arizona based-Brock says: "The recent Spear flight demonstrations were conducted with 10ft and 12ft wings. Modularity is provided by the Spear's composite longitudinal shaft, to which the body, wing, and tail sections all separately mount."

The UAV can be transported in a 17 x 5 x 3m shipping container, assembly requires no tools and Brock claims Spear can be assembled and launched in 5min.

01-04-10, 11:17 AM
Drone Wars: The Legal Debate Continues

By Nathan Hodge March 31, 2010 | 5:13 pm

Last week, the State Department’s top legal adviser laid out the administration’s case for using drones to fight al Qaeda and its allies. Now the drone war is starting to generate some real legal debate.

In the new issue of Joint Force Quarterly, Amitai Etzioni, professor of international relations at The George Washington University, has a piece that outlines a moral and legal case for using drones to attack what he terms “abusive civilians” (his term for unlawful combatants). “To negate the tactical advantages abusive civilians have and to minimize our casualties, we must attack them whenever we can find them, before they attack us,” he writes. Drone strikes, he adds, “are a particularly well-suited means to serve this goal.”

Etzioni’s article is a response, in part, to New Yorker correspondent Jane Mayer, who has documented the perils of what she calls the “push-button” approach to combating terror. But he also appeared in a fascinating discussion of the legal issues surrounding robotic warfare that aired yesterday on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.



The JFQ piece is worth reading in full: It raises some of the larger questions about how adequately the current laws of war have kept up with the rise of terrorism. To make a provocative point, Etzioni cites his own personal experience as a member of the Palmach. “One day, we attacked a British radar station near Haifa,” he writes. “A young woman and I, in civilian clothes and looking as if we were on a date, casually walked up to the radar station’s fence, cut the fence, and placed a bomb. Before it exploded, we disappeared into the crowd milling around in an adjacent street. All the British could do was either indiscriminately machinegun the crowd—or let us get away.”

Of course, I’ll show my own bias here: I think Noah’s reporting on this subject has already raised many of the ambiguities and (the dangers) of drone warfare. And for good background, Wired for War by Danger Room pal Peter Singer (who gets approving quotes from Mayer) is a worthwhile read.


[PHOTO: U.S. Department of Defense]

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/03/the-drone-war-legal-smackdown/#more-23518#ixzz0jpzhr8U5

02-04-10, 01:31 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

EADS issues fresh ultimatum on Talarion UAV

By Craig Hoyle

EADS must receive a renewed commitment from the governments of France, Germany and Spain by mid-year if it is to make further progress with the Talarion unmanned air vehicle project, says Stefan Zoller, chief executive of its Defence & Security unit.

The company completed a two-year risk reduction activity on the Talarion system last year, and is continuing self-funded development work leading to a preliminary design review (PDR) to be conducted "this summer". A critical design review (CDR) should follow in mid-2011, but Zoller warns that without receiving fresh support and detailed requirements from all three partner nations soon the project could founder.

"The deadline is the PDR," he says. "After that we cannot do more as a company unless they tell us what they want the system to look like. It is a technical deadline."

© EADS Defence & Security

Negotiations are being held with the governments, Zoller says, "to see how we can go ahead, perhaps with another phase of pre-financing from our perspective until we get a firm contract". EADS is willing to continue funding the effort into next year, he says, so long as it "can still be confident as an industry that this programme may go ahead."

Europe's previous Euromale programme - based on an EADS development of Israel Aerospace Industries' Heron UAV - collapsed after years of slow progress when the same three participating nations changed their operational requirements.

Zoller warns that it cannot afford for such an event to be repeated with Talarion, a product that he describes as "decisive for the future of the military aircraft business and technology in Europe".

"We now have the Talarion offer on the table, and expect the nations to sooner or later support this three-nation approach," he says. "There is no European alternative." Previously described by EADS as interested in participating, Turkey is now "knocking at the door", Zoller says.

EADS expects development work on the Talarion to total around €1.5 billion ($2 billion), with production of a proposed 15 operational systems to double the programme's value to around €3 billion. Each system will comprise three air vehicles and related ground control station and communications equipment, and first deliveries could take place in 2016, Zoller says.

To be capable of flying faster than 300kt (555km/h) to an altitude above 50,000ft (15,200m), the Talarion UAV will have a maximum take-off weight of around 7t, including a 1.8t payload, says EADS. The design is 12m long and has a 28m wing span.

© EADS Defence & Security

Investment in UAVs and related technologies by EADS has already exceeded €500 million, and Zoller says bridging the gap between the PDR and CDR requires "substantial money". "We have a marching army," he adds.

EADS Defence & Security posted revenues of €5.4 billion and secured orders worth almost €8 billion in 2009, while delivering an 8.4% return on sales. "We are the most profitable division of EADS," says Zoller. "All our programmes are on track: we deliver on what we promise."

06-04-10, 03:29 PM
Thales Awarded Watchkeeper Support Contract

(Source: Thales; issued April 1, 2010)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded Thales UK the initial three-year support contract for the Watchkeeper Unmanned Air System (UAS) programme, for which Thales UK is also prime systems integrator.

The Watchkeeper support solution will be a performance-based Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) service, providing spares and repairs, technical support and the availability of the Watchkeeper training facility. Thales will deliver this service with the support of its key partners and supply chain, established during the Watchkeeper development and production programme.

The contract further secures Thales’s role as an expert provider of innovation and support surrounding UASs and other intelligence and surveillance systems. The contract covers the whole Watchkeeper system, comprised of over 160 entities (including unmanned air vehicles, ground control stations and support vehicles), and includes operator / user training. It is the first step in Thales UK’s provision of cost-effective, through-life support to Watchkeeper.

The Watchkeeper system is Europe’s largest UAS programme, and will provide enhanced all-weather, dual-sensor multi-mission and image-exploitation, and dissemination capability for the UK armed forces. The programme will contribute significantly to information gathering and force protection by providing the MoD with remote, unmanned intelligence and surveillance monitoring during deployed operations.

Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) UAS Programme Manager Steve Waller, says: "This is a significant milestone, keeping the programme on track to achieve the inservice date and deliver the capability into theatre as soon as is practical."

Watchkeeper will initially operate in parallel with the Thales-led H-450 UAS programme, an innovative, service-provision programme that since June 2007 has provided battlewinning ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) capability for the UK Armed Forces. H-450 has now flown more than 30,000 operational hours in support of current operations.

The Watchkeeper support contract builds on Thales’s extensive, proven expertise in providing responsive and robust support contracts, such as Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS), Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) and availability-based support to electronic warfare systems on the UK Royal Navy’s entire above and below water fleet.

The Watchkeeper Service Management Team will be based in the UK, with Joint MoD / Thales Service Delivery and Training teams based in Abbey Wood, Bristol and Larkhill, Salisbury, assisted by service support organisations at Thales’s facilities in both Leicester and Crawley.

Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace and Space, Defence, Security and Transportation markets. In 2009 the company generated revenues of £11.5 billion (12.9 billion euros) with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.

Thales UK employs 8,500 staff based at 40 locations. In 2009 Thales UK's revenues were around £1.5 billion.


06-04-10, 03:31 PM
General Dynamics Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Tactical UAVs with 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar

(Source: General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems; issued April 1, 2010)

BOTHELL, Wash. --- General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has successfully guided an 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar (ADM) to a stationary ground target.

The guide-to-target flight demonstrations, conducted at Ft. Sill, Okla., confirmed the ability of the 81mm ADM using a novel guidance kit and fuze to provide a precision strike capability for Tactical-Class Unmanned Aircraft (TUAV). The ADM was released from a TUAV using the company's newly developed "Smart Rack" carriage and release system that enables weaponization of any TUAV platform.

Application of RCFC technology to the 81mm air-dropped guided mortar has been developed in conjunction with the U.S. Army's Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. ARDEC developed and successfully tested environmental sensors for the guidance kit's fuzing system. The results from the Ft. Sill flight tests built on previously successful 81mm air-dropped guided mortar guide-to-target flight demonstrations by General Dynamics and ARDEC in Kingman, Ariz., in December 2008.

Designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Special Forces for a rapid target response capability, the ADM uses existing mortar inventory to provide a low-cost, lightweight weapon system with proven energetics. The company's patented Roll Controlled Fixed Canard (RCFC) guidance kit, with an innovative flight-control and GPS-based guidance and navigational system, adds precision strike capability to existing mortars.

The nose-mounted guidance kit replaces existing mortar fuzes and has been successfully demonstrated on multiple mortar calibers in both air-drop and tube-launch applications and provides a common, multi-platform Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) and integrated weapon system for unmanned aircraft.

The tube-launched application is a low-cost guidance approach that has been successfully demonstrated at Yuma Proving Grounds in a tactical 120mm guided mortar configuration known as the Roll Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM). The tube launched 120mm RCGM uses the existing warhead and the M934A1 fuze.

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, is a world leader in the manufacture of large-, medium- and small-caliber direct and indirect-fire munitions, shaped charge warheads and BALL POWDER Propellant. It also manufactures precision metal components; and provides load, assemble and pack services for tactical missile and rocket programs.

General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Va., employs approximately 91,700 people worldwide. The company is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies.


06-04-10, 03:36 PM
Logos Technologies Demonstrates Revolutionary Persistent Surveillance for Small UAVs

(Source: Logos Technologies, Inc.; issued April 5, 2010)

ARLINGTON, Va. --- Logos Technologies, Inc. announced that it successfully demonstrated its Light Weight Expeditionary Airborne Persistent Surveillance (LEAPS) system during the Operational Adaptation Developmental Test-02 in Swansboro, NC. LEAPS development is funded by the Office of Naval Research to provide a light-weight, persistent-surveillance capability for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The LEAPS system is the most recent Logos effort in persistent surveillance, an important new approach to Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) that allows users to observe, record, and analyze activity over city sized areas. LEAPS is both substantially smaller and more capable than systems that have flown before.

Logos President Greg Poe explains: "Current systems developed by Logos and other organizations weigh 500 lb or more and are flown on a variety of manned aircraft. We began developing the LEAPS concept three years ago after realizing that payload size and weight significantly limit the applicability of this revolutionary new system concept. By reducing weight to less than 50 lb, we are able to conduct persistent surveillance from many smaller UAVs that support our military forces. In addition, small, light-weight systems can be more easily integrated into multi-mission aircraft while not displacing other payloads. Miniaturization greatly expands the application space for persistent surveillance."

The LEAPS system that flew was the product of a 12-month rapid-reaction effort. LEAPS collected more than 20 hours of data over five sites, where it recorded exercise activities in both rural and densely populated areas. Both real-time and forensic exploitation was demonstrated with Logos software. Other airborne and ground-based sensors participated with LEAPS to demonstrate coordinated collection of airborne imagery and other forms of intelligence. Logos will continue to develop the LEAPS payload and other, even more capable light-weight, persistent-surveillance systems.

Logos Technologies, Inc. is a small business serving customers across a broad range of system design, integration, and services including remote sensing, data exploitation, alternative energy, nuclear engineering, stability operations, information technology, security, and intelligence analysis.


08-04-10, 02:34 PM
Fire Scout Scores First-Ever Drug Bust with McInerney

(Source: US Navy; issued April 7, 2010)

An MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV embarked on the frigate USS McInerney has been used for the first time to intercept a “go fast” boat used by drug runners. (US Navy photo)

EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN == During a routine test flight, a MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Take-off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) supported its first drug interdiction with USS McInerney (FFG 8) and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (USCG LEDET) Apr. 3.

McInerney launched one of its two embarked Fire Scout's to test different functions and settings when it acquired a suspected narcotics "go-fast" on radar. The Mission Payload Operator completed testing and received permission to pursue.

Over the course of three hours, Fire Scout monitored the go-fast with McInerney. With its state-of-the-art optics and extremely small profile, Fire Scout was able to maintain an unprecedented covert posture while feeding real-time video back to McInerney.

Fire Scout proceeded to capture video of the "go-fast" meeting with a fishing vessel for what appeared to be a refueling/logistics transfer. McInerney and its embarked USCG LEDET moved in and seized approximately 60 kilos of cocaine and caused the suspected traffickers to jettison another approximately 200 kilos of narcotics.

Fire Scout has been deployed onboard McInerney in the Eastern Pacific since October 2009. McInerney, with embarked Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) 42 Detachment 7 (HSL Det 7), is deployed for U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO)in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility conducting counter illicit trafficking (CIT) operations in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South. The embarked Fire Scout VTUAVs are operated and maintained by a team from HSL 42 Det 7, the Navy Fire Scout Program Office, and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

NAVSO is the naval component command for U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for all Naval personnel and assets in the area of responsibility. NAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the Maritime Strategy, including Theater Security Cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, community relations, and CIT operations.


08-04-10, 04:05 PM
General Dynamics Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Tactical UAVs with 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar

Any idea the size range that would be able to employ the 81mm mortar? I presume they're talking bigger than hand launched though I suppose anything could be possible.

08-04-10, 04:32 PM
None of the hand-helds but more or less any of the catapult or runway-launched UAV's that have external weapons capability.

08-04-10, 04:47 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

MAV Power - Soaking up the Infrared

Posted by Graham Warwick at 4/8/2010 9:06 AM CDT

Battery-powered unmanned aircraft are all well and good, but batteries need recharging. Solar energy is a good way of recharging them in flight, to extend endurance, but it doesn't work at night. So DARPA has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences a contract to develop an integrated energy scavenging and storage system that works both day and night.

The system could be used to power portable electronics and other unmanned vehicles, but Aurora's focus is on a micro air vehicle it calls the Skate. This is a highly-agile flying-wing MAV designed to be pulled from a backpack, unfolded and launched like a boomerang to fly in confined spaces like city streets and even inside buildings.

Photo: Aurora

Aurora plans to replace the Skate's structure with thin-film lithium batteries formed into the shape of the wing, and covered on its upper surface by solar cells for daytime recharging and on its lower surface with infrared photovoltaic cells for night-time recharging.

The twin-prop Skate uses 40W of power, of which 95% would come from sunlight and only 5% from thermal energy - "but we'll take everything we can get," says principal investigator Phillip Johnson. "It all comes for free. We're not adding anything - we're replacing the existing structure [and battery] with an advanced power system."

Thin-film lithium batteries are used in things like radio-frequency identification tags, and the complete energy scavenging and storage system "will feel like a credit card", he says. The Skate battery will be a thin sandwich of anode, electrolyte and cathode, wrapped in plastic and formed into the shape of the wing.

Aurora's SBIR Phase 1 contract is for a six-month design study "to see if it's doable", Johnson says. If it is, this could lead to a Phase 2 contract to built and fly a MAV with the integrated energy scavenging and storage system. Aurora is also working on a navigation system inspired by bat sonar, so flying by night could become natural for the Skate.

Marc 1
09-04-10, 03:13 AM
Range would be dependent on the altitude and speed of the platform carrying it mortar round wouldn't it?

09-04-10, 03:24 AM
Of course but you could possibly extend the range somewhat by using diamondback or other extendable wings. Whether you would bother is a whole different question especially when Cost is the driving factor as in keep it as low as possible........

10-04-10, 12:38 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Diamond Eyes D-Jet Trainer, HALE UAV

Posted by Graham Warwick at 4/9/2010 3:21 PM CDT

Ares readers might not pay much attention to a general-aviation airshow in Germany, but according to AOPA Pilot's Tom Horne, Diamond Aircraft president and CEO Christian Dries made some interesting comments on the company's military ambitions at this week's AERO Friedrichshafen.

Dries says his Austria-based company is designing a military trainer version of the D-Jet very-light jet, which is under development at its Canadian plant. He also says Diamond is designing a twinjet-version of the single-engined D-Jet -- as a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft.

The twinjet UAV won't appear before 2016, Dries says, and the military trainer might be a while. The deep recession in the GA market has slowed development of the five-seat D-Jet, which Diamond now expects to begin delivering in 2011 -- if it can raise another $100 million on top of the $140 million spent to date.

Dominator II (Photo: Aeronautics)

Diamond already has a toe in the unmanned-aircraft market through Israeli firm Aeronautics Defense Systems, which uses the company's twin-diesel DA42 as the basis of its Dominator 2 medium-altitude long-endurance UAV; and Aurora Flight Sciences, which uses the four-seater as the basis of its DA42M-OPV Centaur optionally pilot vehicle.

10-04-10, 12:46 AM
Here's one of the first clear pics of the mortar round/bomb I've seen..........from Defense Update...........

The recent test was carried out at Ft. Sill, where an 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar (ADM) bomb was deployed from an aircraft. The interface with the launching platform was provided by the 'Smart Rack' carriage and release system, also developed by General Dynamics, enabling the weaponization of any tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (TUAV) platform. Photo: General Dynamics OTS.

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Lance & Shield Ltd.

10-04-10, 12:49 AM
Griffon Aerospace Rolls Out the BroadSword, a 500lb Class UAV Target Drone for the U.S. Army

As UAVs are taking an increasing role in modern warfare, moving beyond ISR, into strike missions, the military is looking for effective means to deny potential use of UAVs by the enemy. In 2009 the U.S. Army awarded Madison, AL. based Griffon Aerospace a contract to develop and produce the BroadSword MQM-171A, Unmanned Aircraft System - Target (UAS-T), developed to represent such a hostile, tactical class unmanned aircraft system.

The BroadSword is a 500 pound class, 17 foot wing span aircraft capable of carrying a variety of payloads. Under the contract Griffon will deliver, operate and maintain the aircraft. According to Griffon, the BroadSword is reasonably priced to support testing of Defense weapons systems under development as well as supporting defense training requirements. The company is supplying targets to the US Army since 2003, when it received the first contract to provide its 130 pound class Outlaw MQM-170 target to support the training of Army Air Defense Artillery units worldwide. To date over 2000 Outlaw targets were produced – the company has been awarded a second five year contract to continue the program over the next five years.

I wonder if this means that there may be an advancement of the concepts QinetiQ and others have been looking at, low-ish speed counter-drones to hunt down UAV's with a secondary but excellent counter-helo capability? Seems like it could be time to go further especially when they "proved" their ability to produce a low cost concept ala JDAM.................

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Lance & Shield Ltd.

10-04-10, 01:18 AM
Apr 9, 2010

India sets sights on killer drones

By Siddharth Srivastava

NEW DELHI - Aside from the much discussed acquisition of big conventional weapons by India, a silent accretion has been the fleet of reconnaissance and "killer" unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically aimed at neutralizing threats from Pakistan, and possibly China in future.

Official sources have told Asia Times Online that if everything goes as planned, within the next two years India should possess a fleet of at least 25-30 attack UAVs compared to fewer than five now with such capabilities. Until now, India has never admitted to using the destroyer UAVs.

Latest reports suggest that some surveillance UAVs may be deployed in Maoist-infested areas, following the deadly attack on Tuesday on paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh that killed 75 security personnel.

The sources say that the moves to acquire attack UAVs gained momentum after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, with Indian defense commanders pressing for their procurement as they have been used by American in the Af-Pak region to very good effect.

It may be recalled that America's "war on terror" in Afghanistan and the frontier regions of Pakistan have involved remote-controlled attacks via satellite. Predators and Reaper UAVs equipped with Hellfire missiles have caused much damage and been used to assassinate known Taliban extremists.

India has been procuring unmanned drones since the India-Pakistan Kargil conflict in 1999, having inducted over 100 UAVs in the decade that followed. But these were mainly used for detecting incoming missile attacks or border incursions.

The ongoing contracts for the army, navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) comprise mainly Israeli "defensive eye in the sky drones" for spying on the enemy. These have mainly included the unarmed Heron and a few Harpy killer drones that function like cruise missiles.

However, this is set to change.

Sources tell Asia Times Online that Israeli arms suppliers have been briefed by New Delhi that future UAV fleets to India should comprise a "bigger dose" of attack UAVs.

And, in keeping with new threat dimensions, the IAF is looking to induct the Israeli Harop killer UAVs from 2011 onwards that resemble the Harpy attack drones. Other parts of the armed forces are likely to follow.

Integration issues are not expected to be severe as the UAV technology is considered relatively simple and does not require complementary hardware installations.

The Indian defense forces already have dedicated satellite links and channels that can be used by the attack UAVs.

There is a possibility that India may pitch for American UAV versions given the deepening defense relations between the two countries, though Washington's decision will certainly be weighed by Pakistani reactions, which will not be positive. Israel poses no such strategic and geopolitical issues for India.

India's new UAV procurement sets follow considerable talk at the highest political and military levels of targeted assaults and "hot pursuit'' by Indian forces in known terror zones in Pakistan - and now possibly Afghanistan.

Military officials have been impressing upon the political leadership in New Delhi that an inadequate and obsolete arsenal is at their disposal, especially in the context of latest arms supplied to Pakistan by America and China.

Officials say that over the longer term, India will look to procure or develop the next generation UCAVs (combat UAVs) that will substitute missile-fitted fighter jets for conventional attack missions.

Harpy and Harop versions destruct at the target, while American Predator and Reaper drones resemble fighter-jets in that they can return to base to replenish arms for fresh missions.

Spy drones are among a clutch of "intelligent arms'' being procured by India from Israel.

The IAF is inducting three Israeli "Phalcon" airborne warning and control systems, at a cost of over US$1 billion. These are capable of tracking missiles attacks and can keep an eye on neighboring nations without infringing airspace.

Another system procured from Israel last year for US$600 million was aerostat radars, which can spot guerilla attacks such the Mumbai assault, where the attackers used small dinghy boats to infiltrate the city.

Pakistan has been pushing for multi-utility drones, apart from big armaments such as F-16 fighter jets, from America as part of its military aid package in exchange of taking on al-Qaeda and now the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Following recent talks, the US is poised to supply state-of-the art arms, including laser-guided bomb kits, helicopter gun ships, surveillance drones and the latest version of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

However, so far, Washington has apparently limited the supply of tactical unarmed Shadow UAVs for intelligence-gathering purposes to its ally, while also withholding killer Predator drones.

Pakistani officials have been quoted as saying they are hopeful of procuring the destroyer drones in the near future. Some reports also suggest the possibility of a Predator equivalent being jointly produced by China and Pakistan.

India has held for long that American weapons provided to Pakistan can only be used against India and are ineffective against guerilla tactics adopted by militants holed in various remote regions.

The simmering conflict between India and Pakistan in South Asia and the push for strategic space between India and China in the Asian region has fueled the arms race.

India's arms acquisitions in the five years from 2004-2009 were US$35 billion, more than double the US$15.5 billion spending from 1999 to 2004, as defense plans after the Kargil conflict were followed to fruition. In the decade after Kargil the value of India's total arms purchases - from domestic state-owned weapons companies and abroad - has exceeded US$50 billion, with every sign the momentum will be maintained over the next decade.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), a reputed arms trade monitor, said in its report for 2009 that India is the world's second-largest arms buyer from 2005 to the end of 2009, importing 7% of the world's arms exports. The top spot went to China, though as India's procurements continue to rise and China turns self-sufficient for arms, India could well become the biggest buyer of arms over the next five years.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at sidsri@yahoo.com

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings)

14-04-10, 04:03 AM


Thales: UK could extend Hermes UAV operations in Afghanistan

By Craig Hoyle

The British Army could extend its use of an interim tactical unmanned air vehicle service in Afghanistan by another six months while it prepares for frontline operations with the more capable Watchkeeper system, says prime contractor Thales UK.

The army has since July 2007 used intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance information gathered by leased Elbit Systems Hermes 450s in Iraq and now Afghanistan under an extended urgent operational requirement deal.

Use of the Thales-owned aircraft has now passed the 30,000 flight hour mark, with this total amassed in more than 2,000 sorties. “The Hermes 450 fleet is providing the lions’ share of airborne ISTAR supporting UK forces in current operations,” the company says.

© Thales UK

Currently due to conclude in October, the UOR arrangement could be extended until April 2011 to cover the period while the army transitions to performing operations with the larger Watchkeeper 450 UAV, Thales says.

Developed from the Hermes 450, the new design will carry dual electro-optical/infrared and Thales I-Master synthetic aperture radar payloads, and enter army service later this year. The service recently confirmed plans to deploy the type to Afghanistan “as soon as possible” after this milestone is achieved.

Delayed UK-based flight trials with the WK450 “are due to commence soon” at the ParcAberporth UAV centre in Wales, Thales says. Previous development activities with the Watchkeeper system have been performed in Israel, with the air vehicle having flown there for the first time in April 2008.

15-04-10, 03:30 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Global Hawk buyers seek cost savings

By Stephen Trimble

Northrop Grumman has started working out details of a plan to boost the commonality between the US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk family and the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance fleet.

Changes could include blending navy-funded improvements into the unmanned aircraft system's ground control station and flight safety features, with the services sharing a manufacturing line for the high-altitude, long-endurance type.

Two years after the navy chose a modified RQ-4 for the $9 billion BAMS requirement, Northrop's two biggest customers want to make the programme as "joint" as possible.

"It's clear there are commonality and synergy opportunities across the services and across the international programmes," says Steven Enewold, vice-president of Northrop's BAMS programme.

© Northrop Grumman

The USN now plans to buy 70 BAMS aircraft for $12.5 billion, augmenting about 117 manned Boeing 737-based P-8A Poseidons. The air force will invest $13.7 billion to purchase 77 RQ-4s, including 23 additional aircraft announced recently.

"Gary and I are committed to not having more differences between these platforms than is truly necessary," says USAF chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz, referring to chief of naval operations Adm Gary Roughead.

The first target of the commonality push is the air force's version of the Global Hawk's Raytheon ground control station. This is housed in a shelter, but the navy is enclosing a separately designed control system in a building. "We're working really hard to make sure those systems are compatible, if not identical," Enewold says.

The navy has also invested in increased safety features for the Global Hawk airframe, as its BAMS fleet will be required to rapidly descend to low altitude to positively identify ships spotted on radar. Its aircraft has a strengthened wing and anti-icing systems installed in the wing leading edges and vertical tails.

"There are a lot of things that are kind of like the next step in the history and the evolution of the programme," Enewold says, "and I'm giving those things back to [the air force] to see what could be the appropriate thing."

The USAF, meanwhile, may be having second thoughts about the Block 40 Global Hawk's multi-platform radar technology insertion programme sensor. The service has launched a "quick-look study", asking industry whether a more affordable synthetic aperture radar with ground moving target indicator capability could be available within 24-36 months.

The study is unlikely to focus on Northrop's multi-function active sensor payload selected for the navy, as Schwartz has said he expects the Global Hawk and BAMS platforms to always operate different sensors due to the latter's focus on maritime surveillance tasks.

Northrop vice-president of HALE systems George Guerra believes the new study could be related to a separate effort to develop a future sensor payload for the RQ-4.

15-04-10, 03:38 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

USAF to expand Boeing X-51A Waverider programme

By Rob Coppinger

The US Air Force plans to add up to six more test flights of Boeing's expendable X-51A Waverider hypersonic scramjet vehicle, in preparation for an operational missile programme.

The rapid identification and prosecution of targets in denied areas, or Riptide, programme aims to deliver a capability to intercept intercontinental missiles in their terminal flight phase.

Boeing is currently under contract to perform four X-51A flights, but the USAF will fund between another two and six tests under an "X-51A Plus" programme to start in 2011. The additional vehicles will have propulsion improvements, waypoint navigation and an ability to hit a precise location.

The first air launch of an X-51A from a Boeing B-52H bomber is expected "in the next few weeks", says Boeing, with Mach 6.0 "a target". The original four tests have been planned to demonstrate acceleration from M4.0 to M6.0 during 300s of flight.

The first flight event has slipped from an original target of August 2009, with a delayed captive carry test having been conducted with a B-52 only last December.

A first flight during May would make the $250 million programme two years behind schedule. Boeing advanced space exploration director Steve Johnston says some suppliers had "manufacturability" issues with some parts for the X-51A, and that those delays combined with limited access to the carrier aircraft.

Tests could follow at four- to six-week intervals if the first flight is successful, with vehicles three and four also to receive enhancements including waypoint navigation.

15-04-10, 03:13 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

PICTURES: Watchkeeper UAV makes first UK flight

By Craig Hoyle

The British Army's Watchkeeper 450 unmanned air vehicle has made its first flight in UK airspace, completing a 20min sortie from the ParcAberporth centre in west Wales on 14 April.

"The success of this first flight is the first milestone in a long-term programme to demonstrate that the Watchkeeper system meets the robust safety and airworthiness criteria required to fly UAVs initially on ranges and segregated airspace in the UK," says Thales UK.

Chief executive Alex Dorrian says: "2010 is an important year for the programme, as it will also see the opening of the Watchkeeper training facility based in Larkhill [on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire], and the continuation of the technical field trials at ParcAberporth."

[I]All pictures © Thales UK

Previous flight test activities with the type have been performed in Israel.

Thales UK is prime contractor for the Watchkeeper tactical UAV programme, with WK450 air vehicles and other infrastructure being produced in Leicester by its U-TacS joint company with Israel's Elbit Systems.

Derived from the Hermes 450 airframe but with an increased maximum take-off weight, the WK450 will offer a maximum mission endurance of over 16h, according to Thales. The UAV has a dual-payload configuration, including an electro-optical/infrared sensor and a synthetic aperture radar.

The British Army currently uses an interim TUAV service in Afghanistan with Hermes 450s leased from Thales under an urgent operational requirement deal. Its new Watchkeeper system will enter use later this year, and should be deployed to Afghanistan "as soon as possible", the service says.

16-04-10, 12:34 AM
U.S. To Send Hummingbird UAV to Afghanistan


Published: 15 Apr 2010 17:04

FORT WORTH, Texas - The U.S. Army will soon sign an agreement with U.S. Special Operations Command to borrow one of its A160 Hummingbird UAVs for deployment to Afghanistan, according to Army officials.

The Army has no formal requirement for a vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV, but the service's deputy chief of staff for intelligence (G-2) is interested in developing a quick reaction capability, said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, the Army's project manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

On April 16, Gonzalez said, he will sign a memorandum of understanding with Special Operations Command for the A160. The Army plans to install the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER) aboard the 2,500-pound UAV and send it to Afghanistan. VADER is designed to track moving vehicles and people on the ground.

Army staff members are considering buying some A160s, said Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army UAS.

Boeing builds the A160; Northrop Grumman developed the VADER.

The Army program office also announced that on April 14 the service's UAVs exceeded one million flight hours. It plans to celebrate the milestone in May with events at the Pentagon and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

16-04-10, 12:37 AM
U.S. Army, Sikorsky Team on Optionally Piloted Black Hawk Demos


Published: 15 Apr 2010 14:14

Fort Worth, Texas - Sikorsky announced today it's collaborating with the U.S. Army to develop an optionally piloted UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter for demonstration.

The company plans to fly the aircraft later this year in two demonstrations, said Jim Kagdis, program manager for Sikorsky's advanced programs.

In the first demonstration, scheduled for this summer, an unmanned Black Hawk, with a safety pilot on board, will fly in formation with a manned Black Hawk. Later in the year, the goal is to fly an unmanned cargo resupply mission with the aircraft.

Sikorsky Innovations, a new technology development organization within the company, is working on the technologies behind optionally piloted aircraft, Kagdis told reporters.

Optionally piloted aircraft is one of the capabilities the Army is looking at in the 2016-to-2035 time frame, according to the service's newly released unmanned aircraft systems road map.

"Mid-term fleet of manned aircraft integrates optionally piloted vehicle capability to increase coverage in reconnaissance role and increase supportability hours without increasing manned flight hours," the road map states.

Sikorsky also announced that it has offered its Light Tactical Helicopter concept for the Army's Armed Aerial Scout program.

The company formally submitted its response to a request for information March 17.

According to a statement, the company also submitted information on other Sikorsky aircraft that could perform the mission, including the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, depending on how the requirements are eventually defined.

A mockup of the Light Tactical Helicopter, which uses the company's X2 technology, was on display at the company's booth.

"Using the X2 Technology features we are flying now on our demonstrator aircraft, we believe the Light Tactical Helicopter will be able to operate at altitudes and air speeds no conventional helicopter can match," said Scott Starrett, president of Sikorsky military systems, in an April 15 statement.

A technology demonstrator aircraft, fully funded by Sikorsky, had its first flight in August 2008.

The goal is to get the aircraft into the air every three weeks, Kagdis said, adding that the aircraft's 10th flight test is scheduled for next week. According to the company, the helicopter is moving toward its milestone of achieving a 250-knot cruise speed.

"This could be a very serious contender" for the Armed Aerial Scout program, Kagdis said.

16-04-10, 12:39 AM
U.S. Army Unveils UAV Road Map

By KATE BRANNEN, Fort Worth, Texas

Published: 15 Apr 2010 12:23

The U.S. Army wants its existing helicopters to be able to fly without pilots - to be "optionally manned," in the parlance of the service's new road map for unmanned aircraft systems.

Released April 15 at the Army Aviation Association of America conference here, the 140-page document is meant to help industry understand what the service wants, said Col. Christopher Carlile, who directs the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.

The Army would prefer to upgrade its helicopters to perform UAV missions rather than buy expensive new aircraft, Carlile said.

The AH-64D Apache Longbow, the CH-47F Chinook and UH-60M Blackhawk already have most of the necessary electronics on board, while Sikorsky plans to autonomously fly the UH-60M by year's end, he said.

Now, the Army needs to do a cost-benefit analysis for where it wants to introduce unmanned or optionally piloted aircraft, Carlile said. If flying the helicopters autonomously does not introduce savings, then it won't make sense to pursue it, he said.

The Army is also moving toward open architectures for its systems and a common ground control station.

"As we move into the future, and even into the near term, the commonality of systems and open architecture is not only required, but it's demanded for any new equipment," Carlile said.

The Army also wants its UAVs to operate as autonomously as possible while in flight and during takeoff and landing, Carlile said.

But UAVs that fire weapons autonomously are not part of the Army's plan, he said.

"We don't believe that, in the conduct of ground war fighting, you can possibly take out the soldier from that mix," he said.

At the beginning of the road map development, Carlile learned right away that everyone wants a UAV.

"I was kind of shocked that I didn't have the [Judge Advocate General's] Corps, the lawyers, saying they needed a UAV for something," he said.

To address this demand, the Army has to do a cost-benefit analysis for introducing UAVs into new missions, Carlile said. Swapping UAVs into a previously manned mission brings along new equipment, more training and sometimes requires more people, he said.

However, those missions that make sense as unmanned will become unmanned, he added.

The road map addresses the near term (2010 to 2015), the midterm (2015 to 2025) and the far term (2025 to 2035).

The document is not a budgetary, acquisition or policy document, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli. Instead, it is a long-range strategic vision paper that is expected to be updated frequently, he said.

"This capability has forever changed the way the Army operates," Chiarelli said.

Find the road map in PDF form at http://www.rucker.army.mil/usaace/uas

16-04-10, 12:13 PM
The Army's Plans for an Unmanned Air Force

By Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics

Stoking its rivalry with the Air Force, the Army plots a way forward for its fleet of unmanned airplanes——predicting a wider range of missions, the rise of remotely piloted helicopters and the arrival of swarms of indoor-flying mini-drones. PM spoke with those on the forefront of unmanned Army aviation to get a glimpse of what the service wants from its robotic fleet.

Army officials today released a plan that lays out how the service will use unmanned aerial vehicles over the next 15 years, proposing a future where autonomous UAVs fly for days over battlefields or for scant minutes inside buildings.

Maj. Gen. James Barclay III, the commanding general in charge of Army aviation, today released the "Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] Roadmap 2010–2035" at an Army aviation conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Its subtitle, "Eyes of the Army," hints at the plan's early focus on reconnaissance, but the scope of the roadmap expands enough so that, by 2025, a single soldier will be able to use a common controller to operate multiple kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles, including tiny robots that can fly indoors.

The Army's future vision includes fewer pilots as aircraft fly themselves, but also relies on converting existing aircraft into optionally piloted vehicles, especially its fleet of utility and cargo helicopters. "We really expanded on this in the road map because the army has such an investment in capital in its manned platforms," says Col. Chris Carlile, director of the UAS U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, where the report was drafted. "Building off an existing fleet is a way to stay current with upgrades."

How to control the fast-paced development of UAVs is a major focus for the Pentagon. Last year the Air Force—which has attempted without success to become the lead government agency directing the development of all military unmanned aerial systems—released a detailed document that charted UAV development, as they see it. (Popular Mechanics covered the Air Force's plan in depth earlier this year.) The Army and Air Force's road maps give an interesting glimpse into how two military services view the future of war. After all, next year the Office of the Secretary of Defense will gather the squabbling parties and revise their plans for UAS development, incorporating ideas from both services' plans.

Where do the two reports overlap? The Army agrees with the Air Force that more UAVs need to be multipurpose, one day hauling cargo and another serving as a communications relay. Both reports acknowledge that soldiers and pilots will have to increasingly trust robots as their squad mates and wingmen as the machines become smarter, more ubiquitous and more capable of performing without human guidance. Other branches of the government have to adjust, too: Both reports predict that, very soon, the Federal Aviation Administration will open its airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles that are equipped with sensors that enable them to avoid other aircraft.

And, in varying time frames, both reports predict that UAVs will be armed with air-to-air missiles and more ground-attack munitions, pods that can detect weapons of mass destruction, or tunnels and payloads that can conduct electronic warfare missions such as jamming radar or eavesdropping on enemy signals.

The differences in the reports are telling, as well. The Air Force's timeline for technological development is more aggressive, proposing to build a family of unique aircraft imbued with more powerful automation. This includes automatic target recognition and, perhaps by 2025, the ability to kill targets without direct human permission.

Army officials flatly state that this will not happen. "We don't believe in the next 25 years you will see a level of autonomy that we as an American people would allow ... a platform to kill autonomously," Carlile says. "It comes down to this: The technology will exist before we, as a people and as a nation, will accept it."

16-04-10, 02:42 PM
AAI's Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Takes Flight with New Extended Wing Design

(Source: Textron Systems; issued April 15, 2010)

HUNT VALLEY, Md. --- AAI Corporation, an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. company, announced today that it has begun deliveries of the new extended wing kit for its Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS). The U.S. Army has ordered 100 extended wing kits for distribution to Army and Marine Corps units.

With this enhancement, the Shadow aircraft’s wingspan increases from 14 to 20 feet. This additional wingspan increases the size of the aircraft’s fuel cell, and also increases aircraft endurance from six to nearly nine hours.

“At nearly 500,000 total flight hours, Shadow TUAS are flying around the clock for our customers in the field,” says Division Vice President, Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Russell Walker of AAI. “We are constantly on the lookout for ways that the system can provide even greater overall value. Increasing mission endurance will reduce the number of mission launches and recoveries in a given day, likewise reducing workload for our warfighters in the field.”

The redesigned wing also includes hard points for external stores. This modification dramatically increases the Shadow aircraft’s mission flexibility in theater, allowing it to not only gather and disseminate electro-optical and infrared full-motion video and metadata with its standard payload, but also to carry additional payloads.

AAI will use a fleet update program, which officially kicked off at the beginning of February, to install additional enhancements to the aircraft. Wiring harness and software modifications are designed to enable the Shadow aircraft to accept the new laser designator payload, another new capability being fielded to Shadow systems. In addition, a new electronic fuel injection engine and fuel system will increase the system’s reliability under the wide range of environmental conditions encountered by fielded Shadow systems.

“The Shadow aircraft fleet update program enables us to rapidly transition all of these technologies to the field,” says Vice President Unmanned Aircraft Systems Steven Reid of AAI. “Our team is dedicated to providing a seamless user experience, as well as continuous growth of Shadow system capabilities. AAI’s years of experience as the designer, manufacturer and systems integrator for Shadow TUAS, as well as our system maintenance, logistics and operations expertise, give us an unmatched ability to deliver a total value solution for our customers.”

AAI Corporation and its indirect wholly owned subsidiaries Aerosonde Pty Ltd and ESL Defence Limited design, produce and support industry-leading aerospace and defense products and services, including unmanned aircraft and ground control technologies; high-fidelity training and simulation systems; automated aerospace test and maintenance equipment; armament systems; and logistical, engineering, supply chain and operational support services. AAI Corporation is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc.


16-04-10, 03:13 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Ducted Fan Can't Duck Criticism

Posted by Robert Wall at 4/16/2010 6:30 AM CDT

The U.S. Army’s ducted fan unmanned aircraft seems is getting mixed reviews.

The so called Class I Block 0 unmanned aircraft is largely meeting performance requirements, but there are reliability problems, David W. Duma, principal deputy director for operational test and evaluation told legislators this week, who notes that the “system was heavily used by the test unit to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks.”

Here is what is positive in the testimony:” The Class 1 UAS meets most of its air vehicle flight and sensor performance requirements.

Here is what is of concern: “However, the UAS was not employed as the back-packable company-level and platoon-level asset envisioned by the user. Due to poor system reliability, the unit consolidated these systems under centralized battalion-level control to achieve system redundancy.” When used at the higher echelon of operations, the ducted fan system “does not have the range or endurance necessary to conduct missions within a larger battalion area of operations.”

Because the system had to be used differently than envisioned, Dumas says “an assessment cannot be made of the effectiveness of the UAS employed in the platoon/company role for which it is designed.”

The reliability shortalls seems significant. Dumas notes that “the Class 1 UAS is not reliable, demonstrating a mean time between system abort of 1.5 hours versus a 23-hour user threshold requirement.”

17-04-10, 03:15 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

RPAs no, OPVs yes in Army UAS Roadmap

Posted by Graham Warwick at 4/16/2010 11:21 AM CDT

You can tell the US Army, unlike the Air Force, isn't run by pilots because the nonsensical term "remotely piloted aircraft" is nowhere to be found in the Army's new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2010-2035 (pdf here). But the term "optionally piloted vehicle" is.

The roadmap, a "living document" set to be updated every two years, outlines the Army's plans to integrate and expand its use of unmanned aircraft - and a big part of it is developing the technology to operate its attack, reconnaissance, utility and cargo helicopters with or without pilots, depending on the mission.

Little Bird, unmanned (Photo: Boeing)

Divided into near-term (2010-2015), mid-term (2016-2025) and far-term (2026-2035) tranches, the roadmap foresees optionally piloted cargo and reconnaissance capability being fielded from Fiscal 2020, and available across its helicopter fleet some time around 2030. And it looks like the technology will be ready: Boeing has already flown its AH-6X armed scout manned and unmanned and Sikorsky will conduct a UH-60 optionally piloted cargo flight by year-end.

On the more traditional UAV front, the roadmap lays out the Army's plans to upgrade and eventually replace its current fleet of unmanned aircraft. In the near-term, it will field the digital-datalink RQ-11B Raven small UAS, improved RQ-7B Shadow tactical UAS and the MQ-1C Warrior extended range multi-purpose (ER/MP) UAS.

Shadow (Photo: US Army)

In the mid-term, the Army plans to expand Raven into a family of small UASs including Wasp, Puma AE and the gMAV and Class 1 Block 0 ducted-fan VTOL UAVs. The further improved RQ-7C, with increased range, payload and heavy-fuel engine, is to become operational in 2016. And by 2020 ER/MP Increment II is to evolve into a family of UASs including Warrior and a VTOL endurance UAV.

In the far term, the Army plans to introduce nano-UAVs at small unit level, field an RQ-X follow-on to the Shadow capable of lethal and non-lethal effects, and the Armed Aerial Scout replacement for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is planned to enter service - either as a VTOL UAS or as an optionally piloted vehicle.

What is refreshing about the Army's roadmap is it's not "pilot-centric". The Air Force spent months developing a credible UAS roadmap that emphasizes the need to increase the autonomy of unmanned aircraft - only to have its leadership decide it wanted to call them remotely piloted aircraft - RPAs - to keep the stick-and-rudder guys happy...
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20-04-10, 03:23 AM
U.S. To Flight-Test Unmanned Space Plane This Week


Published: 19 Apr 2010 17:30

The U.S. Air Force this week will start flight-testing the first of a new generation of unmanned space planes designed to ferry satellite components to-and-from space.

On April 21, the service will launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle into space from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida to "conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently" ferried in-and-out of orbit, according to an April 19 service announcement.

While this week's flight is only meant to test the plane's performance in the highly stressful environment of space, it will eventually lead to the advent of so called plug-and-play experiments in space, according to the announcement.

"OTV has the potential to revolutionize how the Air Force operates in space by making space operations more aircraft like," said David Hamilton, director of the service's Rapid Capabilities Office.

The service is already discussing moving the program toward operational if the X-37B can prove its utility and cost effectiveness during tests of its advanced guidance, navigation, thermal protection and avionics systems, as well as high temperature structures and seals, according to the announcement.

The service has been eyeing various ways to install cheap, flexible systems onto its satellites as a way to quickly respond to changing mission needs under the Defense Department's operationally responsive space concept.

The space plane can stay aloft for 270 days before automatically re-entering Earth's atmosphere and landing like an airplane, according to the Air Force.

20-04-10, 03:29 AM
Watchkeeper is Flying in the UK

The Newest British UAV is Scheduled for Delivery Later in 2010Watchkeeper, the newest unmanned aircraft to join the ranks of the British Army performed its first flight in the U.K. on April 14, 2010 at Parc Aberporth in West Wales. TheParc Aberporth facilities, managed by QinetiQ through the West Wales Unmanned Air vehicle (UAV) Centre, are the premier test facilities for UAVs in the UK.

Performing the first success flight is the first milestone in the UAV induction of the Watchkeeper system with Army units, demonstrating that the vehicle and its system meet the robust safety and airworthiness criteria required to fly UAVs initially on ranges and segregated airspace in the UK. Thales UK, the system integrator and prime contractor is scheduled to deliver the first Watchkeeper systems to the MOD this year.

“2010 is an important year for the program as it will also see the opening of the Watchkeeper training facility based in Larkhill, and the continuation of the technical field trials at Parc Aberporth” Alex Dorrian, CEO of Thales UK added. "Building on lessons learnt on current operations, Watchkeeper will also soon be an invaluable asset for commanders on the ground.” Dorian added. Thales UK, as Prime Contractor for the Watchkeeper program, will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability being delivered to the MoD customer from late 2010. Production of the Watchkeeper system will take place at U-TacS (UAV Tactical Systems Ltd), the Thales UK and Elbit Systems joint company, based in Leicester.

Watchkeeper is a high-performance multi-sensor, all-weather UAS that can remain airborne for over 16 hours in a single mission. It includes a high degree of automation, with automatic take-off and landing (ATOL), and has a de-icing capability, to expand its ability to operate in all weather / operational environment. Delivered in a dual-payload configuration, the system includes enhanced electro-optic / infrared sensors, with laser target designator, as well as an advanced I-Master synthetic aperture radar / ground moving target indicator radar.

Until the Watchkeeper is fielded, the Army relies on the services of fleet of leased Hermes 450 unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) operated by Thales UK offering the MoD customer an innovative ‘ISTAR-by-the-hour’ contract. Since the contract award, in July 2007, these Hermes 450 UAVs have flown more than 30,000 operational hours in over 2,000 sorties, supporting UK forces in current operations, primarily in Afghanistan. The company launched this service in response to an Urgent Operational Requirement (UoR) contract issued by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), and will run through to contract completion in October 2010 which could potentially be extended until April 2011 when the H-450s will be phased out as the Watchkeeper delivers frontline capability.

21-04-10, 01:57 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Army Looks to Arm Shadow, Quickly

Posted by Graham Warwick at 4/20/2010 10:03 AM CDT

If you have a precision-guided weapon weighing 25lb or less (including launcher, wiring, etc), then the US Army wants to hear from you, and quickly. Aviation & Missile Command has issued a request for information on suitable weapon systems that would be ready to field within 12 months of contract award.

Extended-wing RQ-7B (photo: AAI)

And any old system won't do - the Army wants a weapon that can engage stationary and moving vehicles and combatants day and night, with low collateral damage, from a Shadow flying at 60-70kt and 5,000-12,000ft., with the terminal accuracy of a laser-homing, infrared-imaging or millimetre-wave seeker.

Bidders are to provide cost estimates for potential buys of 250, 500, 1,000 and 2,500 munitions.

At first I thought a guided Hydra-70 rocket like BAE APKWS might work, but not only does it weigh in at around 35lb, it's almost half the length of the UAV itself! Then I remembered General Dynamics' 81mm air-dropped guided mortar, which was recently dropped from a tactical UAV in tests. That should weigh in well under 25lb.

21-04-10, 02:18 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Army to add more A160s, gMAV air vehicles

By Stephen Trimble

The US Army will continue acquiring and fielding new types of unmanned air systems to meet immediate requirements, even as a long-term strategy takes shape to fill a void left by the cancellation of its Future Combat Systems programme.

Later this year, Boeing A160 Hummingbirds will be deployed to Afghanistan with the Northrop Grumman vehicle and dismount exploitation radar (VADER). The A160 replaces the Northrop MQ-8B Fire Scout as the army's preferred vertical take-off and landing UAS.

"There is a desire in the army from some as to whether we should establish a programme of record [for the A160], but thus far there is no requirement for it," says Col Gregory Gonzalez, programme manager for army UAS.

© Boeing

Meanwhile, Boeing expects to receive invitations to offer the A160 on contracts to serve as a cargo resupply aircraft for both the US Marine Corps and Special Operations Command, says Ernie Wattam, its A160 programme manager. The company restarted production of the type in March in anticipation of new contracts.

"The fact that Boeing's moving forward [on production] makes this more palatable from a timeline perspective," says Tim Owings, the army's deputy programme manager for UAS.

Meanwhile, 40 upgraded Honeywell gMAV micro air vehicles will be spread around the combat theatre to fill niche assignments. The army has not yet decided whether the A160 or gMAV will remain in the permanent inventory after the short-term need passes, Gonzalez says.

Meanwhile, the army is trying to reach key decisions involving the three lines of UAS types that are programmes of record, but facing possible setbacks. Its requirements and capabilities integration centre has not signed off on a request to launch the AAI RQ-7C Shadow, which boosts an extended-range version of the RQ-7B that also includes adding a heavy-fuel engine.

"We don't know for certain if we'll be given authorisation to then request funding for Shadow 7C or not," Gonzalez says.

The service has, however, approved a set of upgrades for the RQ-7B, including a laser designator, electronic fuel injection and a wider wingspan to boost endurance from 5h to 8h. "That will get us to a point that's very, very close to what the Shadow 7C requirements are," Gonzalez says.

For the long-term, the army also wants to insert a new layer of UAS to meet battalion-level requirements. In the interim, a requirement for a small UAS sized between an AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven and a Shadow will be met by acquiring the AeroVironment Puma all environment mini-UAS. But the army is also looking at aircraft above 35kg (77lb).

23-04-10, 03:08 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Army strategy spurs debate on optionally piloted vehicles

By Stephen Trimble

A newly minted objective for the US Army to transform most of its manned helicopters into optionally piloted vehicles (OPV) must overcome scepticism, but the rotorcraft industry is eager to meet the potential upgrade demand.

A non-binding, 25-year roadmap to guide investments in unmanned air systems predicts that 25% of all cargo missions by 2020 will be flown by helicopters operating as unmanned aircraft.

But the actual number is likely to fluctuate as a series of demonstrations planned by government proves how viable the OPV technology can become.

Glenn Rizzi, deputy director of the army UAS centre of excellence, acknowledges the 25% goal is among the most debated objectives in the army roadmap.

"Maybe we don't do 25% of all cargo UAS missions in the future" with OPVs, he says. "Maybe it will be only 5%. But maybe it will be 70%. Look how far we've come in eight-and-a-half years."

The army favours converting manned aircraft into OPVs rather than buying an all-new fleet of unmanned systems dedicated to cargo missions.

"Essentially our aircraft fly 8h a day," Rizzi says. "There's 16 more hours in a day. The fleet we already have that we already paid for could actually be doing other missions if we have a) more pilots or b) if we 'unmanned' them."

Sikorsky is among several US helicopter companies to experiment with unmanned versions of its rotorcraft. Two demonstrations are planned later this year, says Jim Kagdis, manager of advanced programmes.

In the first test scheduled for the third quarter, a NASA-owned UH-60A Black Hawk called the rotorcraft aircrew systems concepts airborne laboratory will demonstrate formation flight with a manned UH-60, Kagdis says.

In late 2010, Sikorsky plans to conduct a more ambitious demonstration called Mural. A UH-60M - perhaps the second of two fly-by-wire Black Hawks built under the UH-60M Upgrade programme - will haul an external load of cargo in unmanned mode.

"Once we get those two [tests] under our belt then we'll able to start adding detail to our roadmap," Kagdis says.

23-04-10, 05:48 AM
Abbott to buy unmanned Global Hawk planes to detect boat arrivals, protect North West Shelf

Joe Kelly From: The Australian April 23, 2010 1:08PM

TONY Abbott has said a Coalition government would acquire three unmanned Global Hawk surveillance planes - worth about $100 million each - for much earlier detection of illegal boat arrivals.
The Opposition Leader has made the announcement this afternoon in another of his headland-style speeches, this time on foreign policy and defence.

Mr Abbott also said a Coalition government would agree to send more troops to Afghanistan if asked by the US.

In the address, Mr Abbott said he would continue the Howard government's practice of increasing defence spending by 3 per cent a year to 2018.

“I can announce today, though, that one major acquisition, as soon as possible, would be three unmanned Global Hawk Surveillance Aircraft,” he said.

“In a day, a Global Hawk can keep under surveillance 40,000 square nautical miles. These aircraft would help to protect the vast oil and gas projects now progressing on the North West Shelf.

“Real-time surveillance and their vast area of coverage should allow much earlier detection and interception of illegal boat arrivals.”

The aircraft would cost roughly $100 million each, according to a defence specialist.
The Global Hawk's makers claimed the aircraft was versatile enough to take high-definition imagery of a submarine periscope from a cruising altitude of 22,000m.

The wingspan of the Global Hawk is 35 metres and is wider than a Boeing 737 and can fly at 60,000 feet for more than 36 hours.

It was equally capable of switching to civilian missions such as mapping bushfires or using its state-of-the-art electro-optical sensors to photograph the licence plates of vehicles used by arsonists.

In 2004 the Howard government launched a trial and indicated that if successful it would buy about 12 of the aircraft for about $1 billion, to replace the RAAF’s fleet of P-3 Orion maritime patrol planes.

The Rudd government last year put the plan for a fleet of robot spy plans on hold because of the global financial crisis, although it’s likely the RAAF will get them in future.

* What would this mean in the scheme of things? Wasn't the Labor position that the RAAF are already integrating/introducing a number of platforms and may not have the people to take on GH at this stage? (i.e. in the <2016 time-frame)


P.S Mods, please move as appropriate if this post is in the wrong thread.

Gubler, A.
23-04-10, 07:32 AM
* What would this mean in the scheme of things? Wasn't the Labor position that the RAAF are already integrating/introducing a number of platforms and may not have the people to take on GH at this stage? (i.e. in the <2016 time-frame)

You can always find a way to introduce a new system if you provide the funding... If the RAAF is workforce shy there are plenty commercial operators who will help you run it until your workforce is built up. Much like the current Project Nankeen with the Heron and with Boeing and ScanEagle.

The RAAF could have had two Block 10 Global Hawks in service by 2004/05 if the Howard Government hadn't turned the original acquistion into the NWS trial and AIR 7000 competition. What they could have done in the past five years is save a lot of lives...

23-04-10, 07:40 AM
What was the outcome of the 'fly off' between the Mariner and the GH? I cant remember. Which of the two would be better suited to the NWS/Civillian & ADF plans and how do they compare cost wise? I understand the GH was more expensive than the Mariner but that was just for the airframe with regard to the GH whereas the Mariner included the sensor suite, is that correct or have I got it wrong?

Gubler, A.
23-04-10, 08:26 AM
There wasn't a flyoff. The Predator B flew in the area and the GH was simulated to provide information about maritime security ops. The DoD chose to join with the US Navy's BAMS which selected the GH. As to cost the GH is obviously more expensive one for one but you can do more over a distance. Cost wise Northrop argue that the lesser number of platforms and landing/take off cycle mean you can lower the overall cost significantly. On the other hand GAASI argue that with more Predator Bs you can flood an area of interest with more platforms. Each having their benefits for different missions. Since the maritime one is done in conjuction with a P-3 or P-7 the argument tilts in favour of the GH. If you want to replace Dash 8s for patrolling the coastline then the Predator B is probably better. Anyway the key thing is to actually have a system. Otherwise you don't have anything. Those Block 10 Global Hawks that were to be acquired under JP XXXX (I forget) back in 2001 would have been worth their weight in gold the past five years. More and more opportunity lost by the DoD.

23-04-10, 08:32 AM
Ah thats right, thanks Abe.

26-04-10, 11:55 AM
Amid outrage over civilian deaths in Pakistan, CIA turns to smaller missiles

A Predator flies over Kandahar, Afghanistan. The unmanned plane can carry the Hellfire missile or the newer, much smaller Scorpion. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/associated Press)

By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers

Monday, April 26, 2010

The CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimize civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan's tribal areas, according to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan.

The technological improvements have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage, the officials said. Pakistan's government has tolerated the airstrikes, which have killed hundreds of suspected insurgents since early 2009, but that support has always been fragile and could quickly evaporate, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The CIA declines to publicly discuss its clandestine operations in Pakistan, and a spokesman would not comment on the kinds of weapons the agency is using. But two counterterrorism officials said in interviews that evolving technology and tactics have kept the number of civilian deaths extremely low. The officials, along with other U.S. and Pakistani officials interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the drone campaign is both classified and controversial.

Last month, a small CIA missile, probably no bigger than a violin case and weighing about 35 pounds, tore through the second floor of a house in Miram Shah, a town in the tribal province of South Waziristan. The projectile exploded, killing a top al-Qaeda official and about nine other suspected terrorists.

The mud-brick house collapsed and the roof of a neighboring house was damaged, but no one else in the town of 5,000 was hurt, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed after-action reports.

Urban strikes

The agency, using 100-pound Hellfire missiles fired from remotely controlled Predator aircraft, once targeted militants largely in rural settings, but lighter weapons and miniature spy drones have made killings in urban areas more feasible, officials said.

According to an internal CIA accounting described to The Washington Post, just over 20 civilians are known to have died in missile strikes since January 2009, in a 15-month period that witnessed more than 70 drone attacks that killed 400 suspected terrorists and insurgents. Agency officials said the CIA's figures are based on close surveillance of targeted sites both before and after the missiles hit.

Unofficial tallies based on local news reports are much higher. The New America Foundation puts the civilian death toll at 181 and reports a far higher number of alleged terrorists and insurgents killed -- more than 690.

The drone strikes have been controversial in Pakistan, where many view them as an infringement on national sovereignty. In the past the strikes have spawned protests, as well as angry denunciations in newspaper editorials and in speeches by opposition politicians.

The clamor over the strikes has died down considerably over the past year, however, and Pakistani officials acknowledge that improved accuracy is one of the reasons. Pakistani security officials say that better targeting technology, a deeper pool of spies in the tribal areas, and greater cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services have all led to strikes that cause fewer civilian deaths.

Still, the drone strikes are often cited by Pakistanis as a prime reason for their displeasure with U.S. policy in the region. Pakistan has repeatedly asked for its own armed drones so that it can carry out the strikes -- a move that could help the government with the perception that it has ceded authority to the United States. The United States has agreed to provide Pakistan with surveillance drones but has declined to arm them.

Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, said the agency's accounting of the effects of the drone campaign can neither be confirmed nor refuted without greater access to the tribal areas for outsiders or independent scrutiny of CIA video of the strikes.

Officials say CIA targeteers are increasingly driven to avoid civilian deaths, in part to tamp down any political blowback from Pakistan and from U.S. and international human rights groups. Current and former officials point to the relative absence of complaints from local and regional leaders as evidence of the success of their efforts.

"Where are the photos of atrocities? Where are the protests?" asked one U.S. official who closely monitors the program. "After civilian deaths in Afghanistan, there are always press reports. Why don't you ever see that in Pakistan?"

Peter Warren Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, noted that while Americans use words such as "efficient" and "costless" to describe the campaign, some Pakistanis view it as war without honor.

"The civilian-casualties narrative is a misnomer; it's not a driver of perceptions," said Singer, the author of "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century." He said that in the tribal areas, the technology itself can be seen as evil because it is so alien.

The fear of collateral damage has led to what officials describe as a rigorous process for confirming the identity of terrorism suspects -- a process that includes what one U.S. official described as "advance visual observation" by operatives or surveillance drones. But new tools and weapons are equally important, the officials said.

"We're talking about precision unsurpassed in the history of warfare," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the CIA program is highly classified.

Today, several small missiles are available to the agency, including the 21-inch Small Smart Weapon, created by Lockheed Martin. Weighing 35 pounds and having roughly the diameter of a coffee cup, the Scorpion, as it is now called, was designed to be launched from the Predator. It causes far less destruction than a Hellfire, and it can be fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person, in complete darkness, according to U.S. officials familiar with the missile.

A Lockheed spokesman declined to say whether the CIA is currently using the Scorpion, which, according to a Lockheed brochure, is intended for "precision attack using a small, lethal warhead against targets in areas requiring low collateral damage." The agency is also using a variety of warheads for the Hellfire, one former senior intelligence official said. Among them is a small thermobaric warhead, which detonates a cocktail of explosive powders on impact to create a pressure wave that kills humans but leaves structures relatively intact. The wave reaches around corners and can penetrate the inner recesses of bunkers and caves, according to weapons experts.

The CIA's expanded arsenal also includes surveillance drones that carry no weapons, two former intelligence officials said. These "micro-UAVs" -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- can be roughly the size of a pizza platter and are capable of monitoring potential targets at close range, for hours or days at a stretch. At night, they can be nearly impossible to detect, said one former official who has worked with such aircraft.

"It can be outside your window and you won't hear a whisper," the official said.

Correspondent Griff Witte and staff writer Karen DeYoung in Islamabad and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

27-04-10, 01:39 AM
Targeted Killing Lite: Inside the CIA’s New Drone Arsenal

By Nathan Hodge April 26, 2010 | 9:26 am

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has long been wise to a problem: Weapons designed for Cold War combat are often too powerful — and too lethal — for low-intensity conflict and counterinsurgency. Now it seems the CIA is catching on to the concept as well.

In today’s Washington Post, Joby Warrick and Peter Finn report that the CIA may be using “new, smaller missiles” to take out suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas, in combination with better surveillance and other technological upgrades.

Last month, they write, a CIA missile “probably no bigger than a violin case and weighing about 35 pounds” targeted a house in Miram Shah, in Pakistan’s South Waziristan province. The strike killed a top al-Qaeda organizer, along with several others. Such precise, low-collateral-damage attacks, they add, “have provoked relatively little public outrage.”

Leaving aside the question of whether the CIA’s campaign of targeted killing is any less controversial — our pal Peter Singer argues that is isn’t — the agency’s acquisition of less-lethal weapons is intriguing. While the agency refused to comment on the specifics, it’s pretty easy to guess what’s going on here.

Take the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, once the primary weapon in the drone arsenal. The hundred-pound missile packs a warhead that was originally designed to destroy a main battle tank. Use it against a more lightly armored target — say, a civilian car — and it’s overkill. At the military’s behest, contractors have long been developing a number of alternatives for arming drones.

The video here shows a test launch of Scorpion, a thirty-five pound precision glide bomb developed by Lockheed Martin. As our own David Hambling reported in December, Scorpion uses a vicious warhead known as Battleaxe which “combines shaped-charge, fragmentation and enhanced blast in one compact package, and adds an extra bonus: it throws out fragments of reactive material which explode on impact, making it especially effective against unarmored vehicles and other soft targets. This type of explosive technology can make smaller munitions as effective as their bigger predecessors.”

Scorpion was conceived as a competitor to the GBU-44 Viper Strike, a small glide bomb that has already been tested in combat (the Army integrated Viper Strike, a derivative of the Brilliant Anti-Tank Munition, on the RQ-5 Hunter drone).

As Hambling noted, weapons designers have been rushing to develop a number of off-the-shelf air-to-surface weapons for drones, using parts from existing missiles. The Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile, he notes, was developed using elements from Thales’s Starstreak/Starburst anti-aircraft missiles, and weighs 28 pounds. Raytheon’s Griffin missile is a similar effort: It combines parts of the company’s Javelin man-portable anti-tank missile and AIM-9X Sparrow air-to-air missile. It weighs in at 45 pounds.

The Army even put money toward the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), an effort to design a “smart” 2.75-inch rocket (the Hydra 70 rockets currently fired from helicopters are unguided, area-effect weapons). The Navy, which took over the development effort, recently declared that the APKWS was ready to enter production.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/in-drone-war-cia-opts-for-smaller-less-deadly-weapons/#more-23986#ixzz0mFiPMacI

27-04-10, 01:51 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

PICTURE: Urban's Air Mule achieves sustained tethered hover

By Arie Egozi

One small step forward BUT whether its a big enough step is a whole different question!

Urban Aeronautics has achieved sustained tethered automatic hovering flight of its AirMule unmanned cargo delivery and medical evacuation vehicle.

The 21 April flight, at an altitude of up to 9.8ft (3m), paves the way for the first untethered flight later this year.

The ducted fan-propelled AirMule is powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 1 730hp (545kW) turboshaft engine and uses Urban's own automatic flight-control system that relies on GPS augmented inertial measurement and two laser altimeters.

The 2.15m wide, 5.9m long AirMule has a 1,200kg (2,640lb) maximum take-off weight, a 100kt (185km/h) top speed and a 430kg payload capability - for a 1h mission with 130kg/h fuel consumption.

27-04-10, 01:55 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Aeronautics readies for May first flight of Picador UAV

By Arie Egozi

Israeli manufacturer Aeronautics Defense Systems has accelerated the schedule for performing the first autonomous flight of its Picador unmanned helicopter by several months.

"We are preparing the prototype for the first flight. The aim is to perform it in May," says Aeronautics president Avi Leumi. The company had previously identified September as a likely date for that achievement.

Aeronautics will assemble operational examples of the Dynali H2S kit helicopter-derived Picador at its Yavne facility in central Israel. It is using an operator-controlled demonstrator to develop the unmanned air vehicle's flight-control system.

© Aeronautics Defense Systems

The Picador is 6.58m (21.6ft) long, has a rotor diameter of 7.22m and a maximum take-off weight of 720kg (1,590lb), including a 180kg payload. Top speed will be 110kt (205km/h) and an endurance of around 7h is forecast.

Leumi says the Picador is being aimed mainly for navies as a means of replacing their current, manned helicopters in delivering "over the horizon" intelligence and deploying long-range weapon systems.

28-04-10, 03:01 AM
USAF Broadens Plans for Next-Generation UAV


Published: 27 Apr 2010 18:47

The U.S. Air Force has begun re-evaluating and expanding the missions its MQ-X next generation tactical UAV will be required to perform to go beyond battlefield strike and ISR, service officials announced.

The move is intended to make sure specifications outlined in the aircraft's initial capabilities document meet mission requirements for new UAVs in the service's just completed Remotely Piloted Vehicle Flight Plan, according to Col. Bruce Emig, chief of Air Combat Command's (ACC's) irregular warfare requirements division.

The flight plan calls for a next-generation, medium-size UAV such as the MQ-X to perform several new mission sets, such as cargo hauling and aerial refueling, that don't fall under ACC's purview, according to Emig.

"We need to see if the [current definition of MQ-X] is a good solution" for those missions, Emig said during an April 27 speech at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference in Tysons Corner, Va.

At a minimum, MQ-X is slated to replace the service's MQ-9 Reaper UAVs in their role as medium-sized strike and ISR planes.

ACC is now working with Air Force Materiel Command, Air Mobility Command and Air Force Special Operations Command to determine what they need out of a next generation UAV, according to Emig.

The service plans to have the requirements finalized in time to be included in its 2014 Program Objective Memorandum, he added.

At a minimum, the aircraft must have protected communications and datalinks, the ability to survive in contested airspace, and enough power generating and cargo capacity to allow it to carry a variety of sensors and weapons, according to Emig.

The aircraft must also incorporate so called sense-and-avoid technology to prevent collisions with nearby aircraft, he added.

Service officials want the MQ-X and all future UAVs to be able to carry and operate a variety of mission payloads in the same way a C-130 can today.

The Air Force's chief intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, said this probably won't have a serious impact on the service's plans to field the plane - which he described as "an order of magnitude" more advanced than the MQ-9 - close to 2020 to 2022.

28-04-10, 04:03 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Micro-Falcon MAV Tests Onboard STAMP Payload

Posted by Noam Eshel at 4/28/2010 7:44 AM CDT

Innocon, designing and manufacturing a wide range of innovative and unique UAVs, has announced the successful conclusion of flight tests for its lightest yet unmanned aerial vehicle, designated 'Micro Falcon'.

Micro Falcon's test-flight-proven day or night capability utilizes the same Controp D-Stamp camera payload selected by the IDF in Elbit's Skylark mini-UAV (aka Skyrider). Controp developed the D-STAMP (Stabilized Miniature Payload), in response to specific requirements for tactical surveillance and reconnaissance requirements.

The payload is optimized for the MAV mission profile, operating at 20 to 40 knots velocity and 500 to 2,000 feet altitude. The stabilized miniature payload uses a high resolution color CCD camera with 10x optical zoom lens for daytime observation. The camera links via RS-232 communication and wireless datalink to the ground station, where real-time images can be viewed and analyzed.

Micro Falcon provides flexibility to carry less expensive lightweight payloads as well as the heavier payloads required for day/night applications. With Controp's STAMP payload, Innocon has now been able to increase Micro Falcon's payload carrying capacity to 1Kg.

Micro Falcon features Innocon's Naviator Flight Computer which is responsible for all flight aspects, including take off and landing. Naviator frees operators to concentrate on payload tasks exclusively, thereby optimizing mission success. Operating at an altitude of 1000 feet the UAV can stay airborne for 2 hours day or night. Remarkably rugged, with boxed type wings, Micro Falcon can land upside down using parachute descent.

Credits: D-Stamp Controp, Innocon Ltd

29-04-10, 02:35 AM
Here we go again more Lelgalise BS..............

Drone Pilots Could Be Tried for ‘War Crimes,’ Law Prof Says

By Nathan Hodge April 28, 2010 | 4:15 pm

The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

Harold Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, outlined the administration’s legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh’s argument.

It’s part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military’s lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.

In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn’t seem likely. But that’s just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

The drones themselves are a lawful tool of war; “In fact, the ability of the drones to engage in a higher level of precision and to discriminate more carefully between military and civilian targets than has existed in the past actually suggests that they’re preferable to many older weapons,” Glazier added. But employing CIA personnel to carry out those armed attacks, he concluded, “clearly fall outside the scope of permissible conduct and ought to be reconsidered, particularly as the United States seeks to prosecute members of its adversaries for generally similar conduct.”

Drone attacks haven’t just become the primary weapon in the American bid to wipe out Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks. “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” CIA director Leon Panetta said.

But that “embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radical new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently observed. Before 9/11, the American government regularly condemned Israel for taking out individual terrorists. “Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.”

The U.S. government has since defended the strikes as legitimate self-defense — without going into details about the operations. Kenneth Anderson, an American University law professor, said the government’s reluctance to talk about the missions — as well as its reliance on an intelligence agency to carry out military action — raises some serious questions.

In his prepared statement (.pdf), Anderson said Koh “nowhere mentions the CIA by name in his defense of drone operations. It is, of course, what is plainly intended when speaking of self-defense separate from armed conflict. One understands the hesitation of senior lawyers to name the CIA’s use of drones as lawful when the official position of the U.S. government, despite everything, is still not to confirm or deny the CIA’s operations.”

What’s more, Anderson argued, Congress has been reluctant to talk about the bigger policy issue: Why this is a CIA mission in the first place. “Why should the CIA, or any other civilian agency, ever use force (leaving aside conventional law enforcement)?” he said. “Even granting the existence of self-defense as a legal category, why ever have force used by anyone other than the uniformed military?”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, was much more blunt in her statement. “Combat drones are battlefield weapons,” she told the panel. “They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

“Restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use, O’Connell continued. “Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.”

Not all of the law professors testifying today agreed. Syracuse University’s William Banks, for one, said that “the intelligence laws permit the president broad discretion to utilize the nation’s intelligence agencies to carry out national security operations, implicitly including targeted killing.” Current U.S. laws “supply adequate - albeit not well articulated or understood - legal authority for these drone strikes.”

But American laws may not be on the only ones applicable to drone strikes, critics contend. As Anderson argued, the United States may face legal challenges from what he called the “international-law community” – nongovernmental organizations, international bodies, U.N. agencies and others who view this as a program of targeted killing that falls outside the bounds of armed conflict.

Either way, this hearing will not end the controversy. As we’ve noted here before, the government has been less than forthcoming about who, exactly, authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are chosen and how many civilians may have been inadvertently killed.

– Nathan Hodge and Noah Shachtman

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/drone-pilots-could-be-tried-for-war-crimes-law-prof-says/#more-24124#ixzz0mRdwSz8z

30-04-10, 02:17 AM
VERY clever bit of kit this! :thumbsup

Pentagon: Give our Robot Spy Birds Life-Like Legs

By Noah Shachtman April 29, 2010 | 2:48 pm

Stanford University researchers have already figured out how to build a drone that can land on the side of a wall, perch there for a while, and then take back off into air again. The Pentagon would like to make its robotic aircraft even more bird-like. The military recently handed out a trio of contracts to design legs that will let these “micro air vehicles” hang onto a branch in high winds, and run around on the ground if need be. The question is whether these Pentagon-backed firms can top Stanford’s already-impressive results.

The Stanford ‘bot uses “miniature spines” as talons that grab onto a wall. Biorobots, LLC will use its Defense Department contract to give its robo-bird four legs with Stanford spines. The legs “will enable the MAV to crawl around the perch to reposition/reorient the on-board sensors for an optimal view of the target,” according to a Pentagon project summary. “The tail feet will provide the primary braking force on landing, eliminating the MAV [micro air vehicle] tendency to pitch forward on landing. The front feet will cushion the landing and provide locomotion about the perch.” If they can make thing work, it’ll “significantly enhance our military and intelligence personnel’s ability to execute persistent surveillance.”

Manhunting cops could benefit, too. ”During the search, multiple… MAVs could be deployed and land on various structures throughout the search area. Even after the law enforcement personnel seem to call off the search, the MAVs would remain on their perches, keeping watch for the criminal/fugitive.”

The push for animal-esque legs is just a small part of a broader military effort to build small robots inspired by — and in some cases, melded with — birds and bugs. Military-backed researchers have built a teensy drone that floats like a hummingbird and even flown a cyborg beetle. The Air Force Research Laboratory is hoping to have its flock of drones ready to go by 2015.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/#ixzz0mXPwjGQR

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/#ixzz0mXPwm2xs

30-04-10, 02:19 AM
The Legal Case for Robot War Gets Complicated

By Nathan Hodge April 29, 2010 | 1:03 pm

The legal debate over America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan is getting sharper: In a congressional hearing yesterday, a prominent law professor suggested that drone operators could, in, theory, be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes.”

It’s just one of the many sticky legal issues raised by observers of the CIA’s (and the military’s) lethal drone operations. “This is not an academic debate,” Shane Harris of National Journal noted earlier this year. “Quietly, and with little apparent notice from the Obama administration, a broad range of important international actors are raising fundamental questions about the legality of drone strikes, particularly in countries where the United States does not have a military presence.”

Kenneth Anderson, one of the law professors involved in the discussion, stated in his testimony (.pdf) that the one of the main challenges to drone campaign comes from the “international law community” – an influential group of players that includes UN investigators, human-rights activists and other critics.

In in our comments section, Anderson elaborated a bit more on this point. “I regard the participation of the CIA in this activity as well as covert action under orders from the President and as an exercise in legitimate ’self-defense’ in international law as both legal and, from a political and policy standpoint, a very good thing,” he said. “The questions I raised were not from a belief that it was illegal or a bad idea, but that underlying many of the objections — whether from academics, activists, UN officials, and others — is a fundamental objection to the idea of a covert civilian service that in under certain circumstances uses force. I think that covert civilian service is lawful and a good idea - but underlying many people’s objections is an unstated premise that it is not.”

In an e-mail, Danger Room pal Peter Singer — who testified in the first hearing on this subject — amplified another point: The drone war has blurred the traditional lines between contractors, uniformed military and intelligence personnel. “Again, the problem isn’t so much bad people in these roles or malicious intent, but that we are really flouting the original vision of dividing out roles in realms of policy and war, such as how Title 10 [the military] and 50 [intelligence agencies] were to be something different, and that difference used to be very important both politically and legally,” he said. “Whether its doublehatting the NSA and military cyber command, the CIA recreating the 21st century equivalent of the force of B-26s it not so ‘covertly’ used in the Bay of Pigs, or the rise of ‘government owned-contractor operated’ weapons platforms, there is a lot of strange morphing of uniformed military, civilian intelligence, and private business roles going on.”

Under the Obama administration, the drone war in Pakistan has steadily escalated; CIA Director Leon Panetta has described the Predator strikes as “the only game in town” in terms of trying to disrupt al Qaeda operations and decapitate its leadership. But the tangle of legal and bureaucratic issues created by the campaign promises to have very real political consequences.

As Mike Innes of Current Intelligence writes Danger Room: “Intelligence and SF/SOF [special operations] targeting in general is a surprisingly ordinary, bureaucratic process. Can’t imagine there’s all that much that’s fundamentally different about the drones approach. If I had to guess, there’s a long chain of individuals who take small decisions that add up to one big one. Everyone’s responsible, so no one’s responsible … which doesn’t mean someone somewhere won’t be covered in sh*t once it hits the fan over all this.”

[PHOTO: Noah Shachtman]

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/the-legal-case-for-robot-war-gets-complicated/#more-24165#ixzz0mXQQLtUs

30-04-10, 11:51 AM
Thursday, April 29, 2010, 3:29pm MST | Modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010, 5:40pm

Boeing starts production line for A160 in Mesa

Phoenix Business Journal - by Patrick O'Grady

Boeing Inc. has started production of a new aircraft, the A160T remote-piloted helicopter, at its Mesa facility.

Work has started on one of the five test planes and while the company awaits orders for the multi-use aircraft.

“We have plans to build more in the future,” said Tony Ham, Mesa site leader and operations director for Boeing.

The project has about 40 employees pulled from Mesa’s Apache line and other Boeing facilities to work on the A160.

The vehicle was developed by Frontier Aircraft in project that started in 1998 and was funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. The project was taken over by Boeing when it acquired Frontier, but has been out of construction. About 20 models developed by Frontier and Boeing are being used by the U.S. Marines and Navy for a variety of services, including lifting vehicles off of roads in Afghanistan as well as testing surveillance equipment.

Jeff Hunt, who is heading the project for Boeing, said the company has worked to redevelop supply chains for production.

The device is slightly smaller than a passenger helicopter but can fly at up to 160 mph and reach altitudes of 20,000 to 30,000 feet and carry up to 2,500 in a payload.

Boeing plans to sell the aircraft only in the U.S. and expects to gear up production and hiring once the orders come in, but that may still be months away, Ham said.

Mesa officials said they are pleased Boeing is expanding operations at the facility.

“This is fantastic news for our community and the region,” Mayor Scott Smith said. “Boeing is a key player in the thriving aerospace industry in the East Valley.”

01-05-10, 03:01 AM
Afghan Surge Strips UAVs from U.S. Forces Elsewhere


Published: 30 Apr 2010 16:46

The U.S. military has sent so many of its 6,500 UAVs to the Middle East that other operating theaters are going without, said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Glenn Walters, deputy director for resources and acquisition for the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

A U.S. general said that U.S. Pacific Command, Southern Command and Africa Command have requested more UAVs, but are being forced to wait until demand is met in Central Command. (Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr. / U.S. Air Force via AFP)

Walters said that U.S. Pacific Command, Southern Command and Africa Command have requested more UAVs, but are being forced to wait until demand is met in the Central Command.

Drones are used from Yemen to Pakistan, but most of the demand is related to the surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he said April 28 at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference in northern Virginia.

It will likely be a year before U.S. planners have a better handle on how many UAVs will be needed there and how many can be spared for use outside of the Middle East, he said.

Eventually, those other regional commands will have to learn the ins and outs of employing UAVs, perhaps bringing in units that have practical experience with them, Walters said. He said Southern Command, which operates in Latin America, has a serious need for the aircraft but has very limited practical experience with them, while the situation is slightly better in Pacific Command.

Walters said the military, whose UAV fleet has grown from about 200 in 2001, needs to figure out what to do with them as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

By 2012, he said, "We'll have 8,000 UAVs that will have to fit into" the DoD's global maintenance and basing structure.

In the United States, he said, the Army and Federal Aviation Administration are trying to figure out how to allow the pilotless aircraft to operate in civil airspace. Many of the UAVs will be based far away from the slivers of airspace where they are currently allowed to fly.

Walters said the two groups agree that UAVs need reliable onboard systems to sense and avoid nearby aircraft and to automatically return home if they lose connection to ground control stations.

01-05-10, 06:09 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Russia requests Israeli UAV joint venture

By Arie Egozi

Israel's Ministry of Defence is evaluating a Russian government request for a joint venture production facility in Russia for Israeli developed unmanned air vehicles.

Last year Russia purchased Israel Aerospace Industries BirdEye-400 systems. Now Russia wants to buy more Israeli UAVs, such as the IAI Searcher-3 and its Heron. Israel's MoD refused to comment but industry sources say for future purchases the Russian government wants to enter into a joint venture production agreement for a local assembly facility.

Israeli government sources told Flight International on 28 April that this is "a very sensitive issue" because of the close ties between Russia and countries such as Iran and Syria, and as such any decision is likely to be made at the highest levels of government.

04-05-10, 02:12 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Elbit Systems Awarded $50 Million UAS Contract by the Israeli Defense Ministry

Posted by Noam Eshel at 5/3/2010 10:16 AM CDT

Elbit Systems Ltd. announced Sunday, May 2nd, that it was awarded an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense, valued at approximately $50 million. Under the contract, Elbit Systems will supply the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with its brand new Hermes 900 unmanned systems along with additional Hermes 450 unmanned systems, expanding on the IDF's current Hermes 450, considerably enhancing intelligence capabilities.

The contract will be carried out over a three-year period. With enhanced endurance, the Hermes 900 allows flight-altitude of more than 30,000 ft, carrying a large payload, with enhanced flight capabilities in adverse weather conditions. The Hermes 900 is based on the combat-proven Hermes 450 UAS, which has already accumulated over 170,000 flight hours.

The new Hermes 900 allows seamless integration with the IDF operational Hermes 450 UAS, thanks to its universal command & control ground station (UGCS), enabling advanced mission management, automatic taxiing, autonomous flight and automatic takeoff and landing systems, common to all the UAS in the Hermes family. These advantages allow all Hermes 450 operators to immediately integrate the Hermes 900 into the existing UAS fleet using the current infrastructure. Elbit Systems already provides Israeli armed forces with solutions for its varying operational needs, ranging from the mini-UAS Skylark I-LE operated by the Israeli Ground Forces, through the Hermes 450 which plays a central role in the IDF's anti-terror efforts, to the new Hermes 900.

Credit: Elbit Systems

04-05-10, 02:14 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Northrop Grumman and Bell Partner on Fire X

Posted by Bettina Chavanne at 5/3/2010 10:48 AM CDT

Could this be the next Armed Aerial Scout? That's not what Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter are necessarily pitching, but it seems to make sense. The two companies are partnering on a project called Fire X - a bigger, better, faster, Fire Scout built on a Bell 407 aircraft platform. It's unmanned, has lots of room for cargo internally and will fly within the next eight months, according to Bell. They're looking to fly it for the Navy, who's expressed interest in having a medium-endurance VTUAV.

Credit: Northrop Grumman

04-05-10, 02:17 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Predator C Flexes its Sea Legs

Posted by Graham Warwick at 5/3/2010 10:59 AM CDT

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has confirmed it is offering its jet-powered Predator C for the US Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Strike and Surveillance (UCLASS) requirement, unveiling the Sea Avenger at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space show in Washington.

Concept: GA-ASI

The Navy issued an RFI for UCLASS in May, seeking ideas on a stealthy strike/surveillance platform that could operate alongside manned aircraft as part of a carrier air wing by the end of 2018. The notional system would comprise four to six aircraft capable of autonomous operation from Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers, with an unrefuelled endurance of 11-14 hours and the capability for both hose-and-drogue and boom-and-probe aerial refuelling.

Other likely bidders are Northrop Grumman with a derivative of its X-47B naval unmanned combat air system demonstrator, and Boeing with a development of its Phantom Ray - the reborn X-46C J-UCAS demonstrator.

04-05-10, 10:49 AM
BIG pic of the FIRE X..............

04-05-10, 05:13 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Turkish Indigenous MALE UAV (TIHA) Unveiled

Posted by Noam Eshel at 5/4/2010 8:45 AM CDT

Addressing the growing demand for tactical, medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV platforms, TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) has unveiled its latest UAV called TIHA. The new TIHA weighs 1,500 kg (maximum takeoff weight) and has a wingspan of 17 meters.

Configured to carry multiple payloads weighing up to 250 kg, the TIHA carries 250 kg of fuel, enabling a 24 hour mission at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The TIHA will be able to cruise at a speed of 250 knots. The TIHA system is developed for day and night missions, providing real-time image intelligence for surveillance as well as detection, identification and tracking of fixed and moving targets.

The TIHA uses the locally developed ASELFLIR 300T payload developed by Aselsan. This payload includes a multi-sensor electro-optical system comprising a day TV, and Thermal Camera (IR-Infrared) / Laser Range Finder / Laser Designator (LRF/LD) and Laser Spotter. The TIHA also carries a Synthetic Aperture Radar / Moving Target Indicator (SAR/MTI) which also supports Inverse SAR ISAR operating mode for maritime missions. The airframe of the TIHA is a monocock fuselage built of composites and coupled with detachable wing and V-Tail. It is powered by a piston engine driving a pusher-type three-blade propeller. In addition to the recce version of the TIHA, the Turkish air force is interested in fielding the TIHA B, a larger version capable of carrying more than twice the payload (3.5 tons). This version, equipped with larger wings (20m wingspan) will be capable of carrying weapons, such as those developed by Roketsan, including laser guided rockets (CIRIT) and UMTAS Anti-Tank Missiles, both having a range of 8 km.

Credits: Turkish Aerospace Industries

04-05-10, 05:18 PM
More on Predator C -

GA-ASI Introduces Sea Avenger UAS for UCLASS Carrier Operations

(Source: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems; issued May 3, 2010)

NAVY LEAGUE SEA AIR SPACE, WASHINGTON --- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, today introduced Sea Avenger, a carrier-based derivative of its Predator C Avenger UAS, to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s need for an unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. The company formally proposed Sea Avenger to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) via a Request for Information (RFI) submitted on 30 April.

“Sea Avenger fulfills the Navy’s need for a carrier-based unmanned aircraft system that offers long-endurance, proven ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] and precision-strike capabilities,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Like Predator C Avenger, Sea Avenger presents a low-risk, high technology ready procurement option as it leverages more than 18 years of Predator-series UAS development, manufacturing, and system support, along with one million flight hours of operational experience. In addition, many Predator-series elements, components, and subsystems already provide mature, proven, and affordable mission capabilities desired by the Navy for a UCLASS system.

Anticipating a future requirement for a carrier-based UAS, GA-ASI designed specific features into its Predator C Avenger to facilitate subsequent development of an aircraft uniquely suitable for carrier operations that would also integrate seamlessly into the carrier air wing. These include a highly fuel-efficient engine and inlet design, retractable electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, internal weapons bay, and folding wings. The aircraft’s structure was also designed with the flexibility to accommodate carrier suitable landing gear, tail hook, drag devices, and other provisions for carrier operations.

“Sea Avenger is an affordable and transformational technology that will provide commanders with enhanced situational awareness and time-sensitive strike,” noted J. Neal Blue, chairman and CEO, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Sea Avenger is based upon its predecessor, Predator C Avenger. Predator C is designed to perform high-speed, multi-mission persistent ISR and precision, time-sensitive strike missions over land or sea. The current configuration features a 44-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, is capable of flying at 400 KTAS for 20 hours, and can operate up to 50,000 feet. Avenger incorporates a pure jet power plant and carries a Lynx® Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), various EO/IR camera systems, and up to 3,000 pounds of internal ordnance, as well as other sensors. The aircraft is based on an open, modular architecture that provides “plug and play” system configuration, configuration management, and significant flexibility for rapid, controlled change, adaptation, and growth. Developed on company funds for near-term military use, Predator C Avenger is successfully continuing through its planned test program, with a second aircraft currently under development and expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The U.S. Navy has experience operating both Predator and Predator B aircraft manufactured by GA-ASI.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., an affiliate of General Atomics, delivers situational awareness by providing unmanned aircraft, radar, and electro-optic solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide. The company’s Aircraft Systems Group is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable unmanned aircraft systems, including Predator A, Predator B, Sky Warrior, and the new Predator C Avenger. It also manufactures a variety of solid-state digital ground control stations (GCSs), including the next-generation Advanced Cockpit GCS, and provides pilot training and support services for UAS field operations.


04-05-10, 05:38 PM
More on HERMES 900.............


SOURCE:Flight International

Israel signs launch order for Elbit's Hermes 900 UAV

By Arie Egozi

Elbit Systems has secured the launch order for its new Hermes 900 unmanned air vehicle, with the purchase forming part of a roughly $50 million deal with the Israeli defence ministry.

Also covering a further batch of smaller Hermes 450s, the contract will lead to deliveries over the next three years, says Elbit.

Based on the Israeli company's Hermes 450 design, which has now accumulated more than 170,000 flight hours, the Hermes 900 can operate at altitudes above 30,000ft (9,150m).

Both aircraft use the same universal command and control ground station.

"By introducing the Hermes 900 into our growing unmanned aircraft system portfolio, we continue to provide the Israel Defence Force with effective solutions for its varying operational needs," says Elbit chief executive Joseph Ackerman. "We trust that many customers will follow the IDF's selection of the Hermes 900."

© Elbit Systems

First flown in Israel last December, the tactical UAV has a wingspan of 15m and a maximum take-off weight of 1,100kg (2,420lb), including a payload of up to 300kg.

The Hermes 450 is used by Israel in support of its anti-terror efforts, and is also operated by the British Army in Afghanistan under an urgent operational requirement deal with Thales UK.

In addition to the new air vehicles, the defence ministry's order also includes related enhancements to its current UAS intelligence capabilities, says Elbit.

05-05-10, 03:45 PM
Raytheon's Expanded Mission Capability Radar Completes Flight Testing

(Source: Raytheon Company; issued May 4, 2010)

MCKINNEY, Texas --- Raytheon Company's expanded mission capability SeaVue radar completed its flight testing on an MQ-9 Predator aircraft.

This expanded mission capability (XMC) version of SeaVue is an advanced maritime situational awareness suite that significantly reduces operator workload and improves mission efficiency.

"A solid partnership between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the Johns Hopkins University and Raytheon has enabled us to develop and field this unique system to meet defense, civil and homeland security requirements," said Tim Carey, vice president for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems. "Raytheon is proud to offer another product that demonstrates our leadership in maritime surveillance and our commitment to providing advanced solutions for international and domestic customers."

The SeaVue XMC radar incorporates streaming digital video and next generation maritime situational awareness technology to meet the need for complete, persistent and accurate wide-area maritime surveillance. The technology was developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and funded by NAVSEA.

The SeaVue XMC radar is deployed on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's MQ-9 Predator and DHC-8 airframes.

The innovative, new features of the SeaVue XMC radar include the ability to automatically detect, track and sort thousands of maritime targets simultaneously; correlate radar tracks with automatic identification system contacts; provide optimal flight planning for data collection; integrate multiple real-time data sources; and reduce downlink bandwidth requirements via advanced data-compression techniques.

Raytheon Company, with 2009 sales of $25 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 75,000 people worldwide.


05-05-10, 03:46 PM
Kaman Demonstrates Cargo Airdrop Flight Tests With Unmanned Helicopter

(Source: Kaman Aerospace Corporation; Lockheed Martin; issued May 4, 2010)

WASHINGTON --- Kaman Aerospace Corporation, a subsidiary of Kaman Corporation, has proven in recent tests that the unmanned K-MAX helicopter can resupply troops with cargo airdropped by parachute.

The tests add a new delivery method for the 6,000-pound power lifter, which Lockheed Martin and Kaman have successfully transformed into an unmanned aircraft system for autonomous cargo delivery operations.

At its Bloomfield, Conn., facility in late April, Kaman, in partnership with the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), conducted 11 cargo airdrop tests from 300 ft. to 400 ft. above ground level. Kaman used its four-hook carousel for the drops, and during one flight, demonstrated four airdrops in a single mission.

Kaman performed the airdrops using the Army's low cost low altitude cross parachute, a one-time-use expendable aerodynamic decelerator that costs about $375. Currently used to airdrop supplies from manned aircraft in Afghanistan, the parachute is designed to handle 80 to 600 pound payloads delivered from 150 ft to 300 ft altitudes above ground level.

"These airdrop tests continue our progress to advance the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter as a battlefield cargo delivery system," said Terry Fogarty, general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Group at Kaman Helicopters. "Airdropping cargo as an option to placing a sling load on the ground can enhance an unmanned aircraft's survivability while delivering critical supplies in combat environments."

The Army NSRDEC personnel collaborated in the airdrops. "The demonstration exceeded our expectations," said Richard Benney, division leader, Aerial Delivery Equipment and Systems Division. "This capability will save lives, allowing us to deliver supplies to our troops using unmanned helicopters, while also avoiding the threat to the delivery platform in high-threat areas."

In January, Kaman and Lockheed Martin successfully demonstrated to the U.S. Marine Corps at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah the capability of the unmanned K-MAX helicopter to resupply troops by unmanned helicopter at forward operating bases in Afghanistan. During the demonstration, the team showed autonomous and remote control sling load delivery over both line-of-sight and satellite-base beyond-line-of-sight data links.

Future tests may include the use of single and/or multiple Joint Precision Airdrop Systems (JPADS) from higher altitudes. JPADS could be used in higher threat environments to resupply multiple and dispersed ground forces from one unmanned K-MAX release point.

Kaman designed the K-MAX helicopter to deliver sling loads up to 6,000 pounds at sea level, and 4,300 pounds at 15,000 ft. Lockheed Martin's mission management and control systems give the K-MAX helicopter unparalleled flight autonomy in remote environments and over large distances.

"Autonomous flight will enable military users to fly the unmanned K-MAX helicopter in day or night conditions," said Dan Spoor, Aviation Systems vice president at Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems & Sensors facility in Owego, NY. "Adding an airdrop capability to the system gives the Army or Marines another resupply option."

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 136,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation reported 2009 sales of $45.2 billion.

Kaman Corporation, founded in 1945 by aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman, and headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut conducts business in the aerospace and industrial distribution markets.


06-05-10, 03:00 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

K-Max Drops 'Em in Cargo Demo

Posted by Graham Warwick at 5/5/2010 9:09 AM CDT

No sign yet of an RFP from the US Navy for umanned cargo resupply of Marine Corps units in Afghanistan, but team-mates Lockheed Martin and Kaman continue to develop the capability of their unmanned version of the K-Max external-lift helicopter. In late April, they demonstrated the ability to airdrop supplies, which would improve the helicopter's survivability in combat zones.

Photo: Lockheed Martin/Kaman

The 11 drop tests from 300-400ft altitude used the US Army's LCLA low-cost low-altitude parachute, a one-time-use aerodynamic decelerator that costs just $375 and can be used with loads up to 600lb, the team says. Loads were dropped from the K-Max's four-hook carousel. Kaman says future tests could include the JPADS precision airdrop system, a GPS-guided steerable parachute that would allow loads to be dropped from higher altitudes and take advantage of the K-Max's ability to lift 4,300lb to 15,000ft.

The airdrop tests were conducted with a safety pilot on board, but the K-Max operated unmanned during a cargo resupply demonstration for the Marine Corps earlier this year. Boeing's A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopter participated. Both teams are now waiting for an RFP from the Navy. Inside Defense, meanwhile, is reporting the Army is pushing for an unmanned cargo demonstration.

06-05-10, 03:36 PM
Patroller Long-Endurance Surveillance Drone Successfully Completes Third Series of Test Flights

(Source: Sagem; issued May 5, 2010)

The Patroller surveillance drone developed by Sagem (Safran group) has successfully completed its third series of test flights (The first unmanned flight of the Patroller drone took place on June 10, 2009 at the Kemijarvi test center in Finland.)

The flights were carried out from April 22 to 30, 2010, at the Cergy-Pontoise airfield in the greater Paris area, near Sagem’s R&D center in Eragny, where the drone is being developed.

In addition to demonstrating the trouble-free operation of the entire system, this latest series of test flights also validated the performance of the aircraft’s triplex avionics and its imaging system, comprising a Sagem Euroflir gyrostabilized optronics pod, remotely-operated from the ground, and a Ku-band link. For the first time, the Patroller drone was fitted with external tanks on its outboard hard points.

Patroller is a 1-ton class medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone system, based on the S15 special-mission aircraft manufactured by the German company Stemme, and certified by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). These tests were carried out with a pilot in the aircraft, taking advantage of the drone’s ability to be operated in manned mode, which considerably facilitates development flights by allowing them to be carried out in unrestricted airspace.

Based on the excellent results of these tests, the Patroller drone will shortly be moved to the Istres air base in southwest France, in June, for a new series of flight tests, this time in drone mode without a pilot, in restricted airspace. The Patroller drone could start to perform demonstration flights and operational trials as early as this summer. Sagem will be able to deliver the first fully operational Patroller system in 12 to 18 months.

Patroller draws on the technologies developed in France by Sagem for its Sperwer tactical drone system, as well as this system’s long deployment experience in Afghanistan.

Patroller meets virtually all French requirements for long-endurance drones, at a reasonable cost. It is also designed to support a high-speed satellite link, plus pod-mounted payloads (sensors, arms, etc.) for missions of 20 to 30 hours at a maximum altitude of 25,000 ft.

Sagem, a high-tech company in the Safran group, holds world or European leadership positions in optronics, avionics, electronics and safety-critical software for both civil and military markets. Sagem is the No. 1 company in Europe and No. 3 worldwide for inertial navigation systems (INS) used in air, land and naval applications. It is also the world leader in helicopter flight controls and the European leader in optronics and tactical UAV systems. Operating across the globe through the Safran group, Sagem and its subsidiaries employ 6,700 people in Europe, Southeast Asia and North America.

Sagem is the commercial name of the company Sagem Défense Sécurité.


07-05-10, 02:40 PM
Remember when Shadow 200 didn't mean the extremely rigorous and demanding requirements in Australia, due to our "unique" operating environment?

How times change...

Australia – RQ-7B SHADOW 200 Unmanned Aircraft Systems

(Source: Defense Security Cooperation Agency; issued May 6, 2010)

WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia of two RQ-7B SHADOW 200 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $218 million.

The Government of Australia has requested a possible sale of two RQ-7B SHADOW 200 Unmanned Aircraft Systems, communication equipment to include 4 Ground Control Stations, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $218 million.

Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. Australia’s efforts in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Iraq and in Afghanistan have served U.S. national security interests. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives and facilitates burden sharing with our allies.

The proposed sale of the RQ-7B SHADOW 200 systems will improve Australia’s capability to support ongoing ground operations in Afghanistan. Australia will also use the enhanced capability in future contingency operations encompassing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and stability operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The prime contractor will be AAI Corporation in Hunt Valley, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of four contractor representatives to Australia to support delivery of the RQ-7B SHADOW 200 UAS in-country.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.


08-05-10, 07:30 PM
Laser Power Beaming Aimed At UAVs

May 8, 2010

By Graham Warwick

A company that won a NASA prize for beaming power to a climber in a space-elevator competition is targeting unmanned aircraft as an initial application for its laser-based technology.

LaserMotive says power beaming could extend the endurance of electrically powered UAVs. The company plans to fly a small internally funded demonstrator by year’s end.

The Seattle-based company has had discussions with some UAV manufacturers, and could have working prototypes of the system available within 18 months, says Tom Nugent, president and co-founder.

The demonstrator, based on a small unmanned helicopter, will reuse the hardware from the 2009 Space Elevator Games, where LaserMotive won a $900,000 prize for powering a robot up a kilometer-long cable.

The system would route power from arrays of near-infrared laser diodes to a beam director that would track the UAV and keep the beam pointed at photovoltaic cells on the airframe. These would convert the laser light to electricity to power the UAV or recharge its batteries to extend endurance.

LaserMotive foresees three possible applications: stationary platforms, such as a high-altitude airship, that would operate indefinitely under constant laser power: extended-endurance aircraft that would operate away from the beaming station, returning to recharge when the batteries run low; and laser-powered UAVs that would stay on patrol within line-of-sight of the beaming station, which also could be mobile.

Because heavier unmanned aircraft are gasoline or kerosene fueled, the company initially is targeting makers of small electric-powered UAVs, Nugent says. Extending their endurance would reduce the number of vehicles and manpower required, he says.

To deliver 1kW of DC power to a UAV with current technology would require a 2kW beam and 4kW of input power to the laser diodes, but some small vehicles need only 100-200W, Nugent says. Laser beams of a kilowatt and higher will require development of safety systems to ensure the beam is switched off when not pointing at the vehicle, he says.

LaserMotive also is looking at other applications, including beaming power to deployed ground sensors and remote communications-relay stations. Laser power beaming could also be used in disaster-relief operations, he says.

Photo: Insitu

08-05-10, 07:34 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Sand Dragon Will Gotcha IEDs

Posted by Graham Warwick at 5/7/2010 3:16 PM CDT

In a heavily redacted justification of its decision to award Aero Mech Engineering a $13.1 million contract to deliver the Sand Dragon anti-IED unmanned aircraft system for evaluation in Afghanistan, the US Air Force Research Laboratory provides some detail on this rapid-reaction program.

Sand Dragon will use Aero Mech's Fury B flying-wing UAV, which AFRL's Rapid Reaction Office concluded was the only air vehicle that could meet the requirements for runway independence and long endurance and be ready to begin a 150-day operational utility assessment in Afghanistan before the end of 2010.

Credit: Aero Mech Engineering

Sand Dragon will carry a miniature dual-band radar in addition to an EO/IR sensor, and is an extension of AFRL's Gotcha program to collect volumetric synthetic-aperture radar data from an aircraft circling and staring at an urban area and process it into real-time target tracks.

AFRL's justification says the Sand Dragon was developed in response to a request from the Joint IED Defeat Organisation and is unique among Tier II-class UAVs in its ability to carry a multi-sensor payload for more than 24h, with a heavy-fuel engine, beyond line-of-sight datalink, and simplified operation with reduced manning.

The Sand Dragon system will comprise four rail-launched Fury B UAVs plus hard-shelter and deployable ground stations. There is no reference to Fury B or Sand Dragon on Aero Mech's website, and the company so far hasn't returned my call, but it sounds like a larger version of its Cosworth-engined Fury flying-wing UAV.

10-05-10, 01:20 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Navy nears contract signing for STUAS/Tier II

By Stephen Trimble

Contract award is "very close" for a new fleet of small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (STUAS) for the US Navy and Marine Corps, despite procurement hold-ups that have delayed the selection process since October.

Capt Bob Dishman, the navy's programme manager for unmanned aircraft systems, confirmed on 4 May that the contract award for STUAS/Tier II should occur imminently. Under the latest schedule revision, the programme is expected to sign a contract early in the second quarter.

Although that roughly 90-day period is nearing the half-way mark, Dishman says the programme remains on track to meet the schedule. He denies that the seven-month delay for contract signing is based on any disputes or fundamental changes in the navy's approach.

The STUAS/Tier II programme office is instead proceeding slowly to conduct a thorough "due diligence" on the competitors, especially in light of the risk of a protest by one or more of the losing bidders, he says.

Four companies submitted bids for the STUAS/Tier II contract, which could replace hundreds of leased Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle systems operated by navy and marine forces.

AAI submitted a proposal based on the Aerosonde Mk 3.7, while Boeing/Insitu is offering the Integrator, which offers more than three times the payload of the ScanEagle. A Raytheon/Swift Engineering team has proposed the flying wing Killer Bee-4, while General Dynamics/Elbit Systems joint venture UAS Dynamics has offered its Storm product.

10-05-10, 03:09 PM
Army Surpasses 1 Million Unmanned Flight Hours

(Source: U.S Army; issued April 29, 2010)

The US Army surpassed the one million UAV flight hour mark in April, and is now flying up to 25,000 UAV flight hours per month in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. (US Army photo)

The Army’s one millionth Unmanned Aerial System flight hour marks a window in time through which to view a broader trajectory of explosive change and expansion -- one in which the advent of UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan have added more eyes to the fight, found and destroyed more enemies and saved more lives -- all the while altering the way the Army operates on a modern asymmetrical battlefield.

“The ability to have eyes out forward becomes a true combat multiplier,” said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, project manager, Army UAS.

The growth in UAS since the beginning of OEF and OIF is staggering -- the Army inventory jumped from a handful of systems in 2001 to roughly 1,000 aircraft by 2010 and is now logging up to 25,000 of UAV flight hours per month in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Army surpassed the one million unmanned-hour mark in April of 2010.

“Ninety-five percent of what the Army has in its inventory today did not even exist at the beginning of the war,” said Tim Owings, deputy program manager, Army UAS. “A lot of people liken Vietnam to a helicopter war -- I liken these two wars as the unmanned systems wars because these are the wars where these systems hit the central axis of the way we fight and became part and parcel to the way the Army prosecutes wars.”

Roughly 900,000 of the one million flight hours have taken place since the current wars began; it took 13 years to put together the first 100,000 hours, Owings said. About 88-percent of these flight hours are from time in combat.

At the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army possessed only a few Shadow and Hunter UAS Systems.

“We had a couple systems at Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Huachuca, Ariz. At that time we were flying minimal hours, we were sort of in the background in terms of big Army. The Army had other missions and other needs,” said Owings.

However, the value of adding electronic “eyes” in the sky to units conducting counterinsurgency missions on the ground quickly proved indispensable to the current war effort -- driving a demand to rapidly multiply the amount of UAS systems produced and deployed.

The hand-held Raven UAS, medium-altitude Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) UAS and the hover-and-stare, two-foot long, vertical take-off gas-powered Micro Air Vehicle (gMAV) are among the new UAVs added to the fleet in the last seven to eight years; the Army now operates 87 Shadow UAS systems, 6 Hunter systems, 9 ERMP variants, 1,300 Raven systems and 16 gMAV systems.

A Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) of four ERMP aircraft were deployed to Iraq last year --and another ERMP QRC is slated for Afghanistan later this year. The ERMPs heading to Afghanistan will be armed with Hellfire missiles under each wing. The idea of the QRC is to field technologies in service of the ongoing war effort as they are available while simultaneously developing a system as a program of record, Gonzalez said.

Since the early days of the war, the Army has worked vigorously to keep pace with a seemingly insatiable demand for more UAVs in theater.

“It has been absolutely amazing, no matter how many we have built there has always been a need for more,” Owings said.

At the same time, while managing the vastly increasing wartime demands for more ISR, the Army worked aggressively to integrate and upgrade its growing fleet of systems.

“We went through some rapid integration efforts to get additional systems a lot of upgrades to improve reliability to the systems we had. We added a lot of improvements to the mission by adding new payloads,” said Gonzalez.

The rapid addition of hundreds of UAVs to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has lead to innovations such as communications relay and the use of manned-unmanned teaming wherein helicopter pilots work in tandem with nearby UAS assets.

“Manned aircraft and scout aircraft are limited by how long the pilots can stay up there. When you start to add a day and night capability [with UAS] that can stay up for extended periods, you can keep an eye on a lot more. Then, you can call in the manned aircraft to take out a target,” said Gonzalez.

“Pilots have not only embraced the concept but they are trying to get more manned/unmanned teaming.”

UAS minimize risk to pilots by flying into “hot” areas ahead of helicopters; they can even function as a communication node on a network connected forces separated by terrain.

“If there are ground units separated by mountain ranges, we can allow two ground units to talk to each other through UAS--- pass voice coms and data coms over terrain which would typically cause radio obscurance,” said Owings.

Along these lines, the Army now operates Manned-Unmanned Teaming technology in which gives Apache pilots the ability to view real-time UAV feeds from within the cockpit of the aircraft.

The Army is testing the next-generation of this technology which allows the pilots to not only view the UAV feeds in the cockpit but direct their flight and payloads as well. The Army’s now-in-development next-generation Block III Apache is involved in a pilot program testing this cutting-edge capability.

"The ability of the Apache crew to see the battle space through the eyes of the UAV's sensor gives the pilots unprecedented perspective and situational awareness - perspective and awareness that can be shared with our Soldiers on the ground.

This capability shortens sensor to shooter timelines and improves the overall integration between the air and ground elements," said Col. Shane Openshaw, Project Manager, Apache.

The Army plans to expand the manned-unmanned teaming program to include the Kiowa Warrior fleet as well, Owings said. Also, a recently completed Army study called 'Aviation 2' calls for Shadow UAS systems to be formally added to Kiowa units as a way to maximize manned-unmanned teaming opportunities, Gonzalez said.

The Army’s future plans for UAS systems are articulated in its recently unveiled UAS roadmap, which suggests that more aircraft missions will contain an unmanned component or capability.

“Aviation brigades don’t want to go to war without unmanned systems. They see these things as the hunting dogs in front of the hunters -- the eyes of the Army,” said Owings. “They are out in front looking -- allowing them to engage targets that they couldn’t see before, see things at ranges they couldn’t’ see before and attack things they couldn’t attack before.”


11-05-10, 01:58 AM
German Heron UAVs Tested in Afghanistan

A German Heron 1 UAV takes off for flight trials in Afghanistan.

German ISAF troops resume UAV flight trials after taxiing incident

07:40 GMT, May 10, 2010 defpro.com | Despite having been deployed to Afghanistan since 17 May, the German Armed Forces‘ newest reconnaissance asset, the Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has only had few chances to take a glimpse of the country from above. The is basically due to a minor incident at the end of the unmanned aircraft’s first flight: after having completed a successful flight and landing, the taxiing Heron collided for, so far, undisclosed reasons with a parking C-160 transport aircraft, damaging both aircraft. Since 29 April, the German ISAF troops resumed flight operations with the Heron and carry out initial trials, scheduled to last for several weeks.

As the German Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently explained, portraying the UAV’s current activities in Afghanistan, the trials are to prove whether the system meets the performance requirements and will deepen the operators’ experience of the planned operational procedures. As soon as the trials have been successfully completed, the Heron is to be transferred to its daily intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) duty with the ISAF troops in northern Afghanistan.

The Bundeswehr has leased three Heron 1 systems, including four ground stations, form Israel’s IAI for an initial one-year period with an option for a two-year extension. The Heron’s have been selected as an “interim solution” for Germany’s SAATEG project (imaging surveillance system for the depth of the deployment theatre), for which the Bundeswehr also considered to buy the US MQ-9 Reaper (formally Predator B) of a “domestic” solution by EADS. However, both alternatives were considered too expensive which in consequence led to the leasing of the Israeli unmanned air system (UAS).

What is normal with most major contributors to ISAF is now proudly presented by the German Armed Forces: “The UAS is equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as a high-resolution pivotable infra-red and TV camera. A radar system and satellite controls are intended to be integrated. With the Heron 1, the ISAR troops in northern Afghanistan now have the possibility to receive real-time video and photo material in support of tactical operations.” Depending of the chosen configuration, the sensor package includes a day/night electro-optical payload as well as a synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) payload.

This means that, finally, (or at least as soon as the Herons are ready for daily operations) the German troops will receive what, for years already, is considered an indispensible capability by the US forces: an unmanned, flexible and efficient ISR capability beyond the mini-UAV level. The Heron UAVs have already seen deployment to Afghanistan with the Canadian, Australian and French Armed Forces and the air over Afghanistan is buzzing with a variety of small-sized to large unmanned aircraft of different origin. To put this into perspective: for the purpose of aerial reconnaissance, which will now be complemented by the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) Herons, the German Air Force deployed six Tornado aircraft to Mazar-i-Sharif in April 2007 which do not have the capability to provide visual material in real-time.

Defence experts and soldiers have long asked for better equipment of the deployed troops, including assets that provide an improved reconnaissance capability and close air support (CAS). The latter has so far been provided by US attack aircraft and helicopters and there will certainly not be any change to this situation, as the Bundeswehr will not deploy attack helicopters within the near future. However, the former will receive a significant boost as soon as the Heron systems will be fully operational. In light of the intensifying threat situation in the north, which has recently claimed the lives of seven German soldiers, as well as a planned offensive in the area, the Heron systems will be available in the nick of time to support future operations and perhaps provide an increased situational awareness that may save lives on the ground.

The Herons are controlled by the Advanced Ground Control Station (AGCS) which is deployed in a container loaded onto a truck. The system is being operated within the so-called “crew concept”, including the Air Vehicle Operator (AVO) and the Payload Operator (PO) who operates the optical systems and the sensors. The aircraft operates at altitudes up to 30,000 feet at a speed of up to 200 km/h and can remain airborne for a maximum period of 16 hours, according to the Bundeswehr (24 hours according to Rheinmetall/IAI). This enables it to fly to distant mission areas and to loiter above the area while collecting valuable reconnaissance data or it can track a moving target. It also allows to troops to reconnoitre patrol routes or to minimise the “fog of war” in ambush situations.

To provide and support the deployed systems IAI has teamed with Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence in 2009. Rheinmetall Defence and the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung, BWB) signed a multi-million service provider contract in October 2009 to provide the Bundeswehr ISR capabilities through the deployment of the Heron systems. On that occasion, Heinz Dresia, Member of the Executive Board of Rheinmetall Defence, said: “Rheinmetall’s responsibility for performing the complete package of service, repairs and maintenance for the SAATEG system positions us as a competent full-service supplier of logistic services in the field of aerial reconnaissance systems.” The contract covers 24/7 logistical and maintenance services which are carried out in a maintenance and support centre in the theatre.

By Nicolas von Kospoth, Managing Editor

This article is part of the defpro.focus “Taking UAVs to the Next Level” which can be accessed here: http://www.defpro.com/focus/profile/uav/.

11-05-10, 03:21 AM
Boeing unveils ‘the’ Phantom Ray

May 11th, 2010

Boeing has finally unveiled the true shape of its Phantom Ray unmanned demonstrator.

Phantom Ray flying wing to take off by year-end

Emma Woollacott | Tue 11th May 2010, 05:07 am

Boeing has unveiled its Phantom Ray unmanned flying wing, and says it'll have it in the air by the end of the year.

"We are on a fast track, and first flight is in sight," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. "Phantom Ray is on schedule to fly in December, about two years after this project began. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Boeing and the Phantom Ray team."

Phantom Ray is designed to test advanced technologies for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling.

"This is the first of what I expect to be many exciting prototypes, and they’re all with exciting technology," said Craig Brown, Boeing Phantom Ray program manager.

The flying wing is 36 feet long with a 50-foot wingspan and uses a F404-GE-102D turbofan engine. It has a cruising speed of 0.8 Mach - a little over 600 miles per hour - and an operating altitude of 40,000 feet.

It's based on a prototype created less than a decade ago for the J-UCAS program.

"The initial flights will take Phantom Ray through its paces for the flight test profile. Beyond that, the missions and systems tested will be determined by future warfighter needs," said Brown.

11-05-10, 12:53 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

PICTURES: Sagem advances Patroller UAV flight tests

By Craig Hoyle

Sagem will move its Patroller unmanned air vehicle to the French air force's Istres flight-test centre this week, having recently completed a third series of trials with the developmental system.

First flown in June 2009 and based on Stemme's S15 special mission aircraft, the Patroller is being offered to operators including the French armed forces for evaluation from the middle of this year. Deliveries could be made "in 12 to 18 months", says Sagem.

Flight tests conducted from Cergy-Pontoise airfield near Paris from 22-30 April validated the design's triple-redundant avionics equipment and showcased the performance of its Sagem Euroflir electro-optical/infrared sensor and Ku-band datalink.

© Sagem

They also for the first time included the use of external fuel tanks on the Patroller airframe, which weighs about 1,000kg (2,200lb) .

Sagem says the UAV also performed autonomous taxi trials during the recent test phase, with the work having been "integrated in the management of the civil air traffic" at the host airfield.

The work was conducted with a pilot on board the modified S15, a policy that Sagem says "facilitates demonstration flights by allowing them to be carried out in non-restricted airspace".

© Sagem
An operator on the ground controlled the Patroller's Euroflir sensor payload

The use of Istres as a test location will allow Sagem for the first time to operate the Patroller in unmanned mode, using the base's restricted airspace.

An operational version of the medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV would offer operators a mission endurance of 20-30h, with the type to fly at up to 25,000ft (7,620m).

"Patroller meets virtually all French requirements for long-endurance drones, at a reasonable cost," says Sagem. Future system options include the addition of satellite communication equipment, pod-mounted sensors and potentially air-launched weapons, it adds.

12-05-10, 01:59 PM
Aurora Awarded Contract by DoD to Develop Aero-Acoustic Optimized Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Propellers

(Source: Aurora Flight Sciences; issued May 11, 2010)

CAMBRIDGE, MA --- The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to develop an innovative propeller design software code that combines existing acoustic, aerodynamic, and stress codes into a single executable unit. The code will be capable of adapting an open, ducted, or some other propeller geometry or performance variable until an optimum aero-acoustic design is achieved.

Such a system would have potential for designing SUAVs that are significantly harder to detect, along with improved aerodynamic performance, thereby providing much greater protection and safety for valuable SUAVs.

The acoustics of propellers has long been a factor of their design in their most common aviation applications -- general aviation and regional transport design -- driven by both passenger comfort and community noise regulations. Only recently has there been significant interest in the acoustics of propellers for small UAVs. Typically, the propellers of such vehicles have been derived from model aircraft propellers and little work has been done on the optimization of their design with regards to acoustics or performance.

According to the project's principal investigator, Paul Dahlstrand, "Typically propeller design had been done sequentially, alternating back and forth between aerodynamic and acoustic codes until a solution was found, which was almost certainly not optimal. Our approach will provide the propeller designer with a truly aeroacoustic-optimized solution." This technology will allow creation of a new technology-based tool to serve not only the US military market but also the commercial ultralight aircraft and radio-controlled aircraft markets as well.

Aurora Flight Sciences designs and builds robotic aircraft and other advanced aerospace vehicles for scientific and military applications. Aurora is headquartered in Manassas, VA and operates production plants in Bridgeport, WV and Columbus, MS and a Research and Development Center in Cambridge, MA.


12-05-10, 04:23 PM
More on Phantom Ray..............


SOURCE:Flight International

Boeing rolls out Phantom Ray ahead of December flight debut

By Stephen Trimble

Boeing rolled out a flight-ready Phantom Ray unmanned air system demonstrator on 10 May, but first flight remains scheduled for December.

The flying-wing design is heavily based on the X-45C programme cancelled by the US Air Force in 2006, but the roll-out event in St Louis, Missouri revealed an all-new ground control station.

Boeing plans to complete up to 10 flight tests with the Phantom Ray in 2011, says programme manager Craig Brown. The effort is typical of a new company strategy to develop new platforms ahead of a requirement defined by the US Department of Defense.

But the programme also benefits from nearly a decade of investment on the X-45C by the US Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which envisaged the aircraft penetrating hostile airspace and preying on surface-to-air missile batteries.

The Phantom Ray, with a 16,500kg (36,500lb) gross weight, is not expected to carry sensors or weapons during the flight tests. But the demonstration aims to achieve more by checking out the flying qualities of the 15.2m (50ft)-wingspan UAS, which is powered by a non-afterburning General Electric F404-102D engine.

Boeing's new ground station intends to introduce advanced levels of autonomy. Similar to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Phantom Ray will be piloted on the ground using a mouse and a keyboard.

"It's like sitting at a computer at your desk," Brown says.

Boeing so far has not determined if the aircraft will require a separate sensor operator.

The demonstration next year involves controlling only one flying aircraft, but Boeing hopes the data can be extrapolated for research on concepts for controlling four flying aircraft with a single pilot, Brown says.

"If we take a look at the requirements to be able to safely and repeatedly control one air vehicle with one pilot, then we've got the confidence to move on to the second air vehicle," he says.

Boeing previously offered the X-45C to the US Navy for the unmanned combat air systems-demonstrator programme, but lost to Northrop's X-47B.

Boeing does not expect the Phantom Ray to compete for a new USN requirement called the unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike system, Brown says.

"For the resources it would take to navalise Phantom Ray," he says, Boeing will probably decide to "spend them somewhere else".

12-05-10, 04:27 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

PICTURES: Brazilian air force launches Hermes 450 evaluation

By Arie Egozi

Brazil has launched an air force-led programme that will define its future operational requirements for unmanned air vehicles.

Evaluation work is under way at Santa Maria air base in Rio Grande using two Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAVs, ground control station and support equipment. This was delivered via the Israeli firm's Brazilian subsidiary Aeroeletronica in December 2009 and has since been used to support personnel training.

© Elbit Systems

A ceremony was held at Santa Maria on 10 May to mark the establishment of a new UAV centre of excellence. This was attended by air force chief of staff Lt Brig Juniti Saito and senior representatives from the Brazilian army and navy.

To conclude in December, the air force's evaluation of the Hermes 450 will also investigate the requirements of the army, navy and additional government agencies. The process will include test flights and participation in local exercises.

© Brazilian air force

Brazil will launch a process to select a supplier for an operational UAV after the evaluation work has concluded, the air force says. The system will be used for reconnaissance, search and rescue, public safety and environmental monitoring duties, it adds.

"Our goal is to learn from what the military needs for the future operation of UAVs in Brazil," says Jaime Vitor Neves, executive director of Porto Alegre-based Aeroeletronica.

13-05-10, 01:19 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

VIDEO: Samarai, the Outdoor-to-Indoor UAV

Posted by Graham Warwick at 5/12/2010 4:20 PM CDT

Lockheed Martin is making progress in tests of its Samarai monocopter UAV, which is inspired by the autorotative flight of the maple seed or samara. Originally conceived as a pocket-sized nano air vehicle, the design is attracting customer interest in its current 30cm-span version because of its promised ability to transition from outdoor to indoor flight, the company says.

Here is exclusive video of the 30cm Samarai flying indoors, both under remote and autonomous control.

Videos: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories has previously flown a 30-inch-span Samarai demonstrator, and as well as being smaller, the 30cm-span (almost 12in) version it is a cleaner design, says program manager Steve Jameson. The vertical fin at the wingtip is gone, as is the stabiliser bar, and the propeller is at the tip of the wing and not the opposite end of the bar. "It's much closer to the Nano design," he says, and can also take off, land and take off again from any surface.

First flown in November, the 30cm Samarai has good handling, Jameson says, and 15min endurance - twice that of the 30in version. The team is now working towards a graduation demonstration later this year in which the 30cm vehicle will conduct a complete mission, transitioning from autonomous outdoor flight to operator-controlled indoor flight.

Jameson says Lockheed is talking to potential users. "Thirty centimeters is in the ballpark of interest," he says. "It's small enough to fly through a doorway yet large enough to carry a payload." Samarai is being developed with internal funding, with the focus on developing the control technology for a fast-rotating vehicle.

A couple of capabilities being developed include a better way to sense the vehicle's state, as inertial navigation doesn't work with a aircraft spinning at 600rpm, he says. The answer is to hook up four sensors and extract from them different pieces of the data needed to derive pitch, pitch rate, etc. Another is a high-speed camera synchronized to take pictures only when aligned with the target. The operator controls what the camera looks at, providing a "virtual gimbal", Jameson says.

Here's another video, this time showing autonomous flight tests of the original 30in bird, both outdoors and indoors.

13-05-10, 11:14 AM
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle IT180, low cost solution for numerous military applications

French UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Infotron IT 180

The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) IT 180 is designed and manufactured by the French Company Infotron.

Infotron is France based, privately owned company dedicated to the development and sales of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with Vertical Take Off and Landing capability (VTOL type). The UAV IT 180 Infotron is a low cost solution dedicated for numerous applications in the military and security domain.

17-05-10, 04:16 PM
Wrong thread!

18-05-10, 02:48 AM
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles a New Addition to CARAT Thailand 2010

Story Number: NNS100517-17 Release Date: 5/17/2010 4:51:00 PM 0 Comments

100516-N-3446M-024 SAMAESAN CAMP, Thailand (May 16, 2010) Paul Trist Jr., right, a civilian flight demonstration manager, shows Royal Thai Navy officers how to install the tail rudder on the Puma AE mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during a demonstration of the vehicle's capabilities as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2010. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationship and enhance force readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kim McLendon/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kim McLendon

SATTAHIP, Thailand (NNS) -- Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2010 provides a unique experience for the U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy (RTN); but this year, a new technical aspect was added, as the Puma All Environment (Puma AE) evolutions were conducted for the first time.

Developed by Aerovironment, the Puma AE is a lightweight, man portable, mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fitted with tiny high-resolution cameras, providing operators real-time video of people and places on the ground, and can be used for maritime patrols, special operations teams and in search and rescue or disaster response operations.

Several senior Thai Navy officers, including Rear Admiral Chaiyot Sundaranaga, Commander, Frigate Squadron 2, attended a demonstration on the Puma's capabilities aboard the Royal Thai Navy ship, HTMS Naresuan, while it was moored at Sattahip Naval Base. Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander, Task Force 73, also attended, and the group watched as video images transmitted from the Puma as it flew several kilometers away from the ship.

"I am impressed with the length of time it is capable of flying," said Capt. Bhanupan Sapprasert, Commander of the Royal Thai Navy ship HTMS Kraburi.

The Puma AE can be packaged for collecting data with GPS coordinates. Infrared (IR) cameras enable the Puma AE to be used at night for search and rescue missions.

The Puma has the capability to interface with smart phones, transmitting information back and forth. Naval Postgraduate student, Marine Capt. Carrick Longley, who works on the field information support team, gave a demonstration of how a smart phone works with the Puma AE.

"It's ideal for disaster response in Southeast Asia. Just change the SIM (cell phone data) card and anyone can use it," said Carrick.

While the Puma AE has been deployed in more than 20 countries and after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the research and development is ongoing.

Information exchanges like those involving high-tech gear like UAVs allow partnering CARAT nations to stay atop of the latest advances.

CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationship and enhance force readiness.

For more news from Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, visit www.navy.mil/local/carat/.

20-05-10, 01:10 AM
Pentagon Contract Announcement

(Source: U.S Department of Defense; issued May 18, 2010)

-- Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems Air Combat Systems, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $303,337,052 contract which will provide production of two Global Hawk Block 30 air vehicles, two Global Hawk Block 40 air vehicles, and related program sustaining support efforts.
At this time, $17,681,554 has been obligated.
303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-09-C-4001 P0004).

-- Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems Air Combat Systems, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $287,449,968 contract which will provide two in-line airborne signals intelligence payloads (ASIP) and three ASIP retrofit kits.
At this time, $82,318,446 has been obligated.
303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-10-C-4007).

-- Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $30,000,000 contract which will provide for Congressionally mandated advance procurement long-lead associated with two Block 30 and two Block 40 Global Hawk air vehicles; two in-line airborne signals intelligence payloads; two multi-platform radar technology insertion program sensors; two in-line sensors; and other items and activities required to protect the production schedule for Lot 10.
At this time, the entire amount has been obligated.
303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-10-C-4000).


21-05-10, 04:06 AM
SHADOW's are being cast everywhere!

Saab Awards AAI $31.4 Million to Provide Combat-Proven Shadow® Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems for the Swedish Armed Forces

Hunt Valley, Maryland — May 20, 2010 — AAI Corporation, an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced today that Sweden’s lead system integrator, Saab AB (publ), has selected AAI’s Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (TUAS) for use by the Swedish armed forces. As the winner of a competition conducted by Saab on behalf of the Swedish Ministry of Defence, AAI has contracted to provide two Shadow 200 systems and associated services under the $31.4 million award.

Primary among Sweden’s TUAS requirements was the need for a mature, proven system. AAI’s Shadow systems have established their capabilities for a number of customers, including the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, during more than 500,000 flight hours, the majority of which have taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our Shadow systems have amassed a record-breaking number of combat flight hours,” says Vice President of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Steven Reid of AAI. “Having years of operational proof to confirm the system’s capabilities and performance, customers like the Swedish armed forces can invest confidently in a Shadow unmanned aircraft fleet.”

The Shadow TUAS leverages AAI’s interoperable One System® Ground Control Station (OSGCS) to receive and disseminate battlefield video. The OSGCS is NATO Standardization Agreement 4586 compliant, meaning that it enables interoperability among international military forces by supporting the operation of numerous different unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used by allied forces. As a result, Sweden’s Shadow 200 systems will provide the added benefit of working with equipment and capabilities in common with those of other NATO forces.

A single Shadow system includes four aircraft; two OSGCS systems and ground data terminals; four One System Remote Video Terminals, or OSRVTs; a One System portable ground control station; and associated components and support equipment.

With decades of experience designing, manufacturing, fielding and supporting UAS, AAI’s capabilities extend beyond system delivery, with an emphasis on a comprehensive UAS strategy for each customer.

“AAI is a full-service UAS provider,” says Senior Vice President and General Manager Ellen Lord of AAI. “We take a partnership role in helping customers determine the correct system for the mission, then go a step further to build a total-value solution. This might include training devices or instructional services, in-field logistics support or even operational services. We are equipped to build all of these components into a UAS solution so customers are set up for success.”

22-05-10, 05:11 AM
Improving the Shadow

The U.S. Army is enhancing the RQ-7B Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) with a wing replacement kit extending the wing span of the RQ-7 from 4.26 (14 ft) to 6 meters (20 ft). The larger wing increases the size of the aircraft's fuel cell, extending its endurance by 50% to nine hours. The redesigned wing also includes hard points for external stores. The enhanced UAV will be capable of carrying almost twice the weight of the current drone, increasing payload capacity from 60 to 110 lbs. The enhanced Shadow is carrying more fuel and more payloads internally. The standard gimbaled EO ball is being enhanced with the integration of a laser designator. Additional hardware includes a communications relay and standardized Tactical Common Data-Link (LCDL). In addition, new lightweight weapons or QuickMEDs style aerial delivery pods will be carried underwing.

Photo Credit: Jim Christner/AAI Corporation

The Shadow fleet update program, also introduces new wiring harness and software modifications required to operate new multi-sensor payload systems comprising a laser designator payload. The enhances Shadow also employs a new electronic fuel injection engine and fuel system, increasing the system's reliability under the wide range of environmental conditions encountered by fielded Shadow systems. Apture™

Sofar the Army and the Marine Corps have ordered 115 Shadow systems. 76 systems have been fielded — 69 to the Army and seven to the Marine Corps. Under the current fleet enhancement program AAI is delivering 100 wing sets for the Shadow fleet update program. The company is also offering further enhanced variant known as Shadow 7C, equipped with larger fuselage and wings, and powered by a diesel engine, increasing payload capacity to 500 pounds. This variant could be fielded by 2014, if the Army decides to fund the program.

The US Army Aviation is looking into potential weapons that can be loaded on the Shadow and operated with its current POP 300D laser designator payload multi-sensor system. Such weapons should be able to engage stationary and moving targets such as light vehicles and dismounted combatants in day and night conditions with low collateral damage when launched from a Shadow UAS flying at speeds of 60-70 knots and between 5,000 and 12,000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL). Terminal accuracy must be on the order of that demonstrated by currently fielded Semi Active Laser / Imaging Infrared / Millimeter Wave (SAL/IIR/MMW) weapon. The service is interested in mature technologies that can be fielded within 12 months of a contract award. The Army has set the weight threshold for these weapons at 25 lbs, therefore limiting most missile derivatives, except for the smallest ones such as Laser Spike and Griffin and free-fall ADM. The weight limit refers to the whole system including munition, launcher and associated wiring and interface.

Photo Credit: Sgt. Jason Dangel

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Lance & Shield Ltd.

22-05-10, 05:14 AM
A bit more on the Turkish MALE UAV.........


Addressing the growing demand for tactical, medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV platforms TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) has unveiled its latest UAV called TIHA. The new TIHA weighs 1,500 kg (Maximum takeoff weight) and has a wingspan of 17 meters. Configured to carry multiple payloads weighing up to 250 kg, the TIHA carries 250 kg of fuel, enabling a 24 hour mission missions at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The TIHA will be able to cruising at a speed of 250 knots.

The TIHA system is developed for day and night missions, providing real time image intelligence for surveillance*_as well as detection, identification and tracking of fixed and moving targets.

The TIHA uses the locally developed ASELFLIR 300T payload developed by Aselsan. This payload includes a multi-sensor electro-optical system comprising a day TV, and Thermal Camera (IR-Infrared) / Laser Range Finder / Laser Designator (LRF/LD) and Laser Spotter. The TIHA also carries a Synthetic Aperture Radar / Moving Target Indicator (SAR/MTI) which also supports with Inverse SAR ISAR operating mode for maritime missions.

The airframe of the TIHA is a monocock fuselage built composites and coupled with detachable wing and V-Tail. It is powered by a pusher type piston engine driving a three-blade propeller. In addition to the recce version of the TIHA, the Turkish air force is interested in fielding the TIHA B, a larger version capable of carrying more than twice the payload (3.5 tons). This version, equipped with larger wings (20m wingspan) will be capable of carrying weapons, such as the weapons developed by Roketsan, including the laser guided rockets (CIRIT) and UMTAS Anti-Tank Missiles, both having a range of 8 km.

Photos: TAI

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Lance & Shield Ltd.

22-05-10, 05:17 AM
New Propellers, Energy Sources Could Make Small UAVs Stealthier

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is looking for means to reduce the acoustic signature of such UAVs. As part of this effort AFRL selected Aurora Flight Sciences to develop an innovative propeller design software code that combines existing acoustic, aerodynamic, and stress codes into a single executable unit. Such a system would have potential for designing SUAVs that are significantly harder to detect, along with improved aerodynamic performance, thereby providing much greater protection and safety for valuable SUAVs.

Small unmanned aerial vehicles are designed to fly at low altitude, delivering real-time intelligence flying over the enemy. Larger unmanned vehicles are flying at an altitude of 15,000 ft or higher. At these altitudes, their presence in the sky is noticed by the characteristic engine noise, but the specific area where they are 'looking' at is unknown to the enemy, as they cover a large area. Unlike these high flying UAVs, Small UAVs fly much lower, hence, when they are spotted, people on the ground immediately realize there are targeted and would take evasive action. Furthermore, their presence will draw considerable fire from the ground, which could compromise their mission.

The acoustics of propellers has long been a factor of their design in their most common aviation applications -- general aviation and regional transport design -- driven by both passenger comfort and community noise regulations. Only recently has there been significant interest in the acoustics of propellers for small UAVs. Typically, the propellers of such vehicles have been derived from model aircraft propellers and little work has been done on the optimization of their design with regards to acoustics or performance.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is looking for means to reduce the acoustic signature of such UAVs. As part of this effort AFRL selected Aurora Flight Sciences to develop an innovative propeller design software code that combines existing acoustic, aerodynamic, and stress codes into a single executable unit. Such a system would have potential for designing SUAVs that are significantly harder to detect, along with improved aerodynamic performance, thereby providing much greater protection and safety for valuable SUAVs.

Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences

The new code will be capable of adapting an open, ducted, or some other propeller geometry or performance variable until an optimum aero-acoustic design is achieved. According to the project's principal investigator, Paul Dahlstrand, "Typically propeller design had been done sequentially, alternating back and forth between aerodynamic and acoustic codes until a solution was found, which was almost certainly not optimal. Our approach will provide the propeller designer with a truly aeroacoustic-optimized solution." This technology will allow creation of a new technology-based tool to serve not only the US military market but also the commercial ultralight aircraft and radio-controlled aircraft markets as well.

Energy scavenging System Could Power Future Unmanned Systems

Aurora has also embarked on the development of an integrated energy scavenging and storage system, under a DARPA program. The new energy source could be used in portable electronics, unmanned vehicles, and weapons systems.

Aurora's effort will develop and evaluate an integrated system that includes both solar cells for day time use and infrared photovoltaic cells for night time use, as well as integrating these energy sources with thin-film lithium batteries.

The majority of wireless devices are powered by batteries, which must be replaced or recharged when depleted; this is a major limitation for remotely located systems. Solar energy scavenging is widely used for recharging, but alternative technologies are required to provide night time scavenging capability to extend system lifetime and utility. Aurora's concept will target infrared (IR), or thermal radiation, as a nocturnal energy source.

"Thin-film micro-batteries have remarkable performance and life compared to everyday batteries," said Dr. Philip Johnson, the program's principal investigator. "When embedded with ambient energy scavenging devices we have the prospect of batteries that will remain perpetually charged."

A key attribute will be the development of the energy sources and batteries not just as individual technologies, but integrating them into a reliable night/day power system, including innovative ways to package the system into existing vehicle or weapons systems structures. Aurora believes that this integrated scavenging and storage system technology may provide extended lifetime and utility to other systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the future.

The program is managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Microsystems Technology Office (MTO).

© Copyright 2010 - Defense Update, Lance & Shield Ltd.

25-05-10, 04:30 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

PICTURE: Global Observer Breaks Cover at Edwards

Posted by Graham Warwick at 5/25/2010 8:38 AM CDT

Taxi tests of the AeroVironment Global Observer hydrogen-powered high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft have been conducted at Edwards AFB, Calif. The next step is a final flight readiness review and initial low-altitude battery-powered flights.

Photo: AeroVironment

The 175ft-span GO-1 Global Observer is designed to fly at 55,000-65,000ft for five to seven days, carrying a 400lb payload, two aircraft providing continuous coverage. The aircraft uses liquid-hydrogen fuel, which is burned in an internal-combustion engine to generate electricity to recharge the batteries and power electric motors driving six propellers.

AeroVironment is building three GO-1s under a $120 million Joint Capability Technology Demonstration funded by six US government agencies. The first aircraft was delivered to Edwards in December and has undergone ground-vibration and structural-mode interaction tests, aircraft systems checks and taxi tests to confirm autonomous propulsion, data link operation, steering and braking, says AV.

26-05-10, 02:52 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Navy delays STUAS contract decision

By Stephen Trimble

Three weeks after a senior acquisition official said a decision on a small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS) purchase was "imminent", the US Navy has confirmed that a contract award has been delayed by a further nine months.

The year-long source selection process to replace Boeing-operated ScanEagle systems with a larger, military-operated aircraft is now expected before October.

Capt J R Brown, STUAS programme manager, credits the latest delay to taking extra vigilance with taxpayer dollars.

"Discussions have been, and continue to be, required to understand and clarify industry's proposed solutions to meet the warfighter's requirements," Brown says.

The latest setback extends an already three-year-old process to reach contract award.

In August 2007, the US Marine Corps nearly selected a contractor for what was then called the Tier II UAS. But the navy halted the process to merge the requirement with the ship-based STUAS.

Nearly three years later, the USN continues to evaluate four submitted proposals, which include the AAI Aerosonde Mk 4.7, Boeing/Insitu Integrator, Raytheon/Swift Engineering KillerBee-4 and the General Dynamics/Elbit Systems UAS Dynamics joint venture's Storm.

Despite the delay, US troops have not gone without a STUAS capability. Since 2004, the US military has purchased Boeing/Insitu's smaller ScanEagle system (below) as a contractor-operated service.

© Boeing/Insitu

As the STUAS acquisition process drags on, the navy plans to extend the contract. However, it intends to make Boeing compete for the follow-on services deal.

That strategy has created a new version of the STUAS competition, attracting interest from all four bidders. According to industry sources, the navy is likely to award an indefinite-quantity/indefinite delivery contract, requiring several bidders to compete for task orders on an individual basis.

However, that acquisition process also may be running late. The contract is scheduled to be awarded in October, but so far the navy has not issued a request for proposals.

Meanwhile, the service also has started pursuing alternatives to the original STUAS strategy, which envisaged selecting only a single supplier. It has now inserted funds in the fiscal year 2010 budget to also study options for a "STUAS Lite" system.

The STUAS Lite concept is aimed at equipping cruisers and destroyers. The ships currently use a torpedo magazine to house the ScanEagle equipment, but that space is too small for the STUAS system, which could be up to five times larger by volume.

26-05-10, 12:58 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

General Atomics proves Lynx radar against 'dismounts'

By Stephen Trimble

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has revealed an advanced version of the synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication sensor deployed on the US Army's MQ-1C Sky Warrior unmanned aircraft system.

The Lynx advanced multi-channel radar (AMR) on 7 May demonstrated its ability to track individual people, or "dismounts", moving on the ground, the company says.

Conducted from its Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, the flight marks "the first time that radar dismount detection capability has been demonstrated on a Predator-class aircraft", says Linden Blue, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' reconnaissance systems group.

Blue says the Lynx AMR will be offered by the end of the year as an upgrade for the army's Sky Warriors, which will soon be officially renamed the "Gray Eagle" fleet.

© Sgt Travis Zielinski/US Army
The US Army already operates the Sky Warrior UAS in Iraq

The company is supplying its baseline Lynx radar design for use with deployed Sky Warriors on an interim basis.

Although the Lynx was originally selected for the Sky Warrior fleet, the army reopened the competition for the sensor package in 2007 and awarded a production contract for Northrop Grumman's StarLite system.

However, the StarLite was not available for deployment on a quick reaction capability to Afghanistan this year, so the service decided to field Sky Warriors initially with the Lynx radar.

In early May, Northrop also announced the StarLite has demonstrated the ability to track dismounted human targets moving on the ground.

Tracking "dismounts" in Afghanistan's rugged terrain has become a key technology priority for the army.

Northrop's vehicle and dismount exploitation radar is also being developed to perform the role exclusively. It is expected to be fielded in Afghanistan aboard the Boeing A160 Hummingbird UAS.

26-05-10, 11:41 PM
Air Force’s Mach 6 Cruise Missile Makes a Successful Splash

By Nathan Hodge May 26, 2010 | 3:18 pm

The Air Force has successfully launched the X-51 WaveRider hypersonic missile, bringing the military one step closer to a Mach 6 cruise missile that’s 10 times faster than current models.

An observer tells Danger Room the test was “mostly successful,” with over 200 seconds of accelerating powered flight. “Clean separation, perfect engine start, acceleration under power,” our source says. “Some hitches at the end of flight, but overall it’s a magnificent first flight.”

The X-51 is part of an effort to develop a new class of cruise missile that can handle hypersonic flight. The WaveRider — built by Boeing Phantom Works and engine maker Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne — is built around a scramjet design, which employs a supersonic mix of air and jet fuel to reach extreme speeds.

This test was run from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. As this embedded video shows, a B-52 had to carry the WaveRider 50,000 feet. After the bomber released the aircraft, an attached solid rocket booster was supposed to accelerate the WaveRider to about Mach 4.5. After the booster fell away, the scramjet was supposed to kick in, taking the aircraft up to Mach 6.

A first flight attempt was scrubbed yesterday, after a tanker ship sailed into the splash zone. We’re waiting for more details, but if all went to plan, this may be the longest-ever hypersonic flight powered by scramjet propulsion.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/05/air-forces-mach-6-cruise-missile-makes-a-successful-splash/#more-25316#ixzz0p4ekE3K6

27-05-10, 12:26 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

PICTURE: IAI unveils hovering air vehicle design

By Arie Egozi

Israel Aerospace Industries is developing a new line of hovering air vehicles for military and civilian applications, with its first system dubbed the electric tethered observation platform (ETOP).

The electric-powered tethered platform will be used for observation and other applications and can be deployed from a fixed station or moving ground vehicle.

Although hovering vehicles are usually hindered by having to carry a heavy energy source, the ETOP gets around this problem by leaving such equipment on the ground.

The platform's propellers can be used to hover at a predetermined altitude above ground for long periods, with endurance limited only by the ground platform's energy storage capability.

© Israel Aerospace Industries

IAI says the design can carry a payload of up to 20kg (44lb) to a maximum altitude of 328ft (100m), and does not need an operator.

The first prototype of the ETOP system has completed its first 10 flight tests, while a second is also now in use. The system will be operational by 2011.

27-05-10, 03:41 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

Elbit to test UAV control system with two types

By Arie Egozi

Elbit Systems will conduct the first simultaneous test of its universal command and control ground station with the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 unmanned air vehicles before the end of this year.

The test will include a full mission involving the two types in several scenarios, including requiring the control system to handle different payloads.

The Israeli air force is the immediate customer for the universal control system, having included it in a recent launch order for the Hermes 900, which also included an additional batch of Hermes 450s.

© Elbit Systems

According to the air force, the increasing use of UAVs will create a permanent need to operate different vehicle types carrying a variety of sensors.

"These payloads are critical in building a comprehensive picture of the combat area, and the operators need a common tool to operate the different types," says an air force source. Elbit's system is being developed using the past experience gained by the service.

27-05-10, 03:44 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

Northrop to step up Global Hawk support work

By Alex Derber

In response to the increasing demands placed on the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the US Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $50 million contract to establish the first dedicated repair line for the unmanned surveillance aircraft.

The interim repair line, which will be separate from the Global Hawk production line, will cater for the RQ-4's integrated sensor suite (ISS) and enhanced ISS, which will become operational on Block 30 air vehicles later this year.

Block 10 RQ-4s use the ISS, produced by Raytheon, which comprises a synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical/infrared camera.

Raytheon's EISS is used by the air force's Block 20 Global Hawks, and offers twice the range and resolution of the ISS. This has prompted the service to predict heavier use of the system than had been originally planned.

© Northrop Grumman

Block 30 Global Hawks will have 50% more payload capacity than the Block 10 design, enabling them to also carry Northrop's advanced signals intelligence payload.

The ISS and EISS repair line will be based at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems' El Segundo facility in California.

27-05-10, 03:46 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

Fuji continues to develop fighter-launched UAV, despite test mishap

By Leithen Francis

Fuji Heavy Industries is continuing to develop a fixed-wing unmanned air vehicle that can be deployed from under the wing of a fighter aircraft.

The conglomerate is developing the UAV for Japan's air force, say industry sources in the country. It has built two so far, but lost one during testing, they add.

The UAV was deployed from under the wing of an air force Mitsubishi/Lockheed Martin F-2 fighter before plunging into the sea, and was not recovered, the sources say.

Officials at Fuji have declined to comment.

Fuji is the smallest of Japan's three major aerospace conglomerates. Mitsubishi has the lion's share of fighter manufacturing, while Kawasaki Heavy Industries is dominant in military transports.

In recent years Fuji has tried to grow its business by investing in the development of UAVs for military and commercial customers.

It built three forward flying observation system unmanned helicopters for the Japanese army's artillery units. It also developed a civil version of the design dubbed the RPH-2, which carries a chemical pesticide tank and spray boom for agricultural use.

27-05-10, 04:51 PM
'Transformer' Touted as Next-Gen Combat Drone

Updated: 14 hours 45 minutes ago

We've had this one before I think on the old board............I'd love to know HOW it transitions from vertical to horizontal flight???

AOL News (May 26) -- It takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane and doesn't need a pilot. That's what one U.S. aerospace company is proposing as the latest in combat drones.

Maryland-based American Dynamics Flight Systems is working on a concept for an aircraft that can take off vertically but then switch to flying forward. Called the AD-150, the aircraft works by using ducted fans mounted on the wingtips to generate lift. Those fans can then tilt when the aircraft transitions to forward flight.

"As a tilt-duct aircraft, it doesn't have the limitations a helicopter has," Wayne Morse, president and CEO of the company, tells AOL News. Once it transitions, it can travel at speeds of up to 300 knots, surpassing even the fastest traditional helicopters.

American Dynamics Flight Systems
This rendering shows the AD-150, which takes off vertically like a helicopter, but then transforms to fly forward like an aircraft.

The company has already completed wind tunnel testing of a scale model at the University of Maryland with the help of state funding. "Right now, we're in the middle of taking a ducted fan and scaling it down to one-quarter size and putting it in the wind tunnel for powered testing," Morse says.

Engineers at the company are also preparing what's known as an "iron bird," or a ground rig, that will be used to test a full-scale model of the aircraft in October, according to Paul Vasilescu, the company's technical development director.

At 15 feet long and with a wing span of about 18 feet, the AD-150 is smaller than the Predator, the unmanned aerial vehicle being used in air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Morse says the AD-150 could do everything from carrying cargo to firing missiles at the ground.

Other missions for the aircraft might include jamming radar, conducting surveillance and identifying targets.

Though Morse says the aircraft could fulfill multiple roles for different parts of the military, the company has its eye on the Marine Corps, which is looking at buying four drones in the AD-150's size category. The AD-150 could fly ahead of the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft, and conduct surveillance and gather intelligence, Morse says.

The company is also working on a launcher system for unmanned aircraft that can fire smaller munitions. "It's not that the [Predator's] Hellfire missile isn't good, but it's an anti-tank weapons system," Morse says. "Firing a Hellfire at a Toyota Land Cruiser with four al-Qaida guys is a lot of overkill, and it's a very expensive weapon system."

The company's missile launcher, by contrast, would allow the military to fire smaller weapons -- such as one with a 5-pound warhead -- from an unmanned aircraft.

Though American Dynamics Flight Systems is a small firm, Morse says that's nothing unusual for the military's unmanned aircraft, which have often been developed by smaller companies, even if they were eventually bought out by large prime contractors.

"It doesn't have to be a prime-level [company]," Morse says. "It happens on my level."

Gubler, A.
28-05-10, 12:52 AM
We've had this one before I think on the old board............I'd love to know HOW it transitions from vertical to horizontal flight???

Just like the V-22. The ducted fans on the wingtips rotate 90 degrees from a vertical thrust to a horizontal thrust position.

28-05-10, 02:48 AM
Really? Jeez I hadn't worked that one out.................:razz

I'm no aerodynamicist but I would have thought that aerial vehicle shape NOT condusive to a transition from vertical to horizontal? I assume that s a jet plume at the back to provide directional stabilty but the wing-to-tip-engine interface seems wrong to me............like I said no expert, so I stand to be corrected.

29-05-10, 05:15 AM
UCAVs: Considering the Next Step

By Norman Friedman in Naval under Defense Technology,

Unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) first came to prominence in the United States during the attack on Afghanistan, when Predators armed with Hellfire missiles were used to attack particular insurgent leaders. The unmanned Predator offered considerable endurance, so it could loiter, waiting for, say, a vehicle carrying known targets to appear, then attack on command. Predator was a remotely piloted attack airplane. It and its successors are now widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israelis have used equivalent aircraft in places like Gaza.

In each case, the airplane has relatively low performance, hence can loiter for a long time, and it can also observe a particular area on a protracted basis. No human pilot would want to do anything that hazardous (not to mention that fatiguing). The remote operator’s ability to remain alert (through replacement if necessary) for a protracted period may be quite as important as the airplane’s ability simply to remain in the air for a long time. Any aircraft loitering in a limited area is vulnerable to enemy fire, but the loss of a UCAV is not nearly so serious as the loss of a manned airplane. To date, then, UCAVs have been attractive both because they offer something manned aircraft do not (protracted endurance over a target area) and because they do not hazard pilots. The great question is whether future UCAVs can offer more.

In December 2008, Northrop Grumman rolled out the first X-47B, the air vehicle of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System – Demonstrator (UCAS-D). X-47B is expected to fly some time in 2010. Unlike Predator and its various derivatives, X-47B is a relatively high-performance attack bomber, comparable to the Navy’s Hornet (but subsonic rather than supersonic). It has a stealthy airframe and internal space for two large guided bombs. Although the prototype lacks additional external hard points, presumably they can be added. Like a Hornet, X-47B has a radar (in its case, a multi-role fixed array) as well as some electro-optics. It is about the size of a manned carrier attack bomber, and in production quantities, it would probably cost about as much. All of that makes it a potential competitor with the emerging F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). How (and whether) that competition is resolved depends on whether UCAS-D performs as hoped, and also on whether the new potentials associated with its unmanned status are worth the radical change in policy involved in replacing some or all planned JSFs with unmanned aircraft.

Northrop Grumman UCAS X-47B Air Vehicle-1. The Navy plans to test the aircraft's carrier suitability in 2010. Northrop Grumman photo by Chad Slattery

The UCAS-D designation emphasizes two vital features of the program: that the aircraft is part of an integrated system and that it is intended to demonstrate something not previously done. Unlike a Predator, X-47B is intended to be semi-autonomous, as are several other current unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It is assigned a flight plan and an objective, and it flies itself from waypoint to waypoint. If something goes wrong, or if the situation changes, the operator can assign a new flight plan, but he never actually flies the airplane. X-47B is conceived as one unit of a swarm of such aircraft, which would be tasked collectively. The whole swarm might orbit waiting for orders. The swarm operator would assign it an objective. Communicating among themselves, the aircraft of the swarm would decide which one (or ones) should attack. As aircraft of the swarm used up their fuel and weapons, they would be replaced, the swarm itself operating for an extended period (not least because it would not be affected by pilot fatigue). The idea of such a swarm, operating under broad instructions, seems to be more and more accepted within the naval command and control community. It applies to many kinds of unmanned platforms, not only to aircraft.

This kind of operation is radically different from the way the U.S. Air Force currently operates its Predators. The Air Force argues that each individual UAV, or at least each UAV operating in the same air space as manned aircraft, needs its own dedicated pilot. Over the past few years, for example, it has devoted considerable resources to developing a special ground cockpit for UAVs. UCAS-D and other semi-autonomous UAVs require an autonomous means of detecting and evading nearby aircraft, or else they must operate well away from manned aircraft. Advocates of autonomous UAVs claim that they are very close to such capability, and in any case, that pilots may not prove to be very effective UAV operators. For example, a Predator crashed in Afghanistan because its remote pilot-operator tried to recover from a stall the way he would have in his previous manned airplane, an F-16. Predator was so different that the pilot’s technique made the problem worse.

The demonstration issues are successful UAV operation on and around a carrier flight deck and successful air-to-air refueling. Both are very

One of the major challenges to operating a UCAV from a carrier will be deck handling, such as loading the aircraft onto a catapult, as depicted here. Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

important, and both present some difficulties. A crowded carrier flight deck is a very demanding environment, and a carrier pilot responds to numerous fairly subtle cues by flight deck personnel as he maneuvers his airplane. That is aside from the skill involved in landing the airplane on the carrier as it pitches and rolls. Unless UCAS-D can accomplish both deck handling and landing, it is useless to the Navy.

In both cases, there is some reason for optimism. For deck handling, a simple but inelegant solution would be to install a rudimentary set of controls under a fold-down panel atop the UCAV; a deck crewman would climb aboard as soon as it landed and was arrested, and control it on the flight deck. The problem for any other solution is that the same carrier must operate both manned and unmanned aircraft, so however the UCAV operates on deck must be compatible with the method now used to control manned aircraft. If the price of admission for UCAS is to redesign the flight deck control system used by the majority of naval aircraft, UCAS will not be adopted. Solutions commonly discussed require UCAS to interpret standard hand control signals autonomously or semi-autonomously.

As for landing on the carrier, carriers currently have automatic landing systems. Pilots dislike them, but better ones have evolved over the years, and it seems likely that some version of the current system, in which a computer on board the carrier is linked to the flight control computer of the approaching airplane, will work.

Then there is air-to-air refueling. One of the great advantages offered by a variety of unmanned aircraft is long endurance, unlimited by pilot fatigue. In fact, endurance may be the only unique advantage such aircraft offer. Really long endurance would, for example, allow a carrier to maintain a swarm within striking distance of enemy targets while the carrier herself remained far away, beyond the range of most or all enemy anti-carrier weapons. The stealthy design of the X-47B would make that swarm survivable despite proximity to enemy air defenses. The United States already exploits long UAV endurance in its use of Predator UCAVs, and also in many reconnaissance UAVs, such as Global Hawk. There is already a project to demonstrate aerial refueling of a Global Hawk. Presumably much the same technology would apply to X-47B. The X-47B design provides internal plumbing that would allow the aircraft to carry fuel instead of bombs in the internal bays, so the aircraft could buddy-refuel. Without aerial refueling, X-47B would still have a longer effective endurance than a manned airplane (simply because it would have no tired pilot aboard), but the difference from a manned bomber would be far less striking.

A DARPA/NASA effort demonstrated the first autonomous in-flight probe and drogue refueling in 2006. Note the pilot and co-pilot are both "hands off" as the F/A-18 flies its own probe into the drogue. Photo courtesy of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

If both carrier operation and refueling are demonstrated, X-47B or a successor will be a candidate naval attack aircraft, but that will hardly ensure that it is adopted. Will it be worthwhile? There are really two questions. One is whether the pilot of such an aircraft performs vital functions that the unmanned system cannot match, in which case some or all attack aircraft should be piloted. The second is whether there is some economic reason that would impel the Navy to make the radical shift. Military organizations tend to be conservative because they know that they have to pay in blood for mistaken innovations. Not all new attractive ideas turn out to be very good once subjected to the stress of combat. Theoretical attractiveness may be deceptive.

Readers may be surprised that the United States already relies relatively little on the judgment of attack pilots. That is not to say that we have moved to some kind of robotic warfare, but rather that the vital element of human judgment has moved largely to the data fusion centers that assign targets – typically by their coordinates rather than by the appearance that pilots can use for targeting. This evolution began in the late 1980s, and it is associated with the dramatic rise of GPS-guided bombs – i.e., of bombs that fly to preassigned target positions. There are, of course, exceptions. In Afghanistan, aircraft are routinely ordered to attack those firing on them. The logic is that such tactics uncover enemy forces. The drawback, revealed when two Air National Guard pilots bombed some Canadian troops, is that the pilots are rarely aware of the precise positions of those they attack, hence cannot know whether they are inside or outside free-fire zones. It probably takes a ground controller to know that. The evolution toward assigned targets is also due to the kind of war we are now fighting, in which targets that matter are quite difficult to distinguish from the air, but may be quite evident from intelligence and sensor data.

Even when the character of the targets may be obvious from the air, as in distinguishing tanks from, say, school buses, pilots may mistake their positions and attack the wrong targets. The one kind of mission that does not fit the preassigned category is armed reconnaissance, but it can be argued that splitting roles between hunting UAVs reporting back to controllers and attacking UAVs striking on the basis of their data would be acceptable.

On the other hand, human judgment applied on the spot is very important for fighter pilots in the frequent situations that are not quite war but also not quite peace. Is that airplane approaching the fleet a hostile bomber or an innocent airliner? If an airliner does not seem to respond to a challenge, are the pilots otherwise absorbed (as in the recent incident in the Midwest where commercial pilots unwittingly overflew their destination by 150 miles) or has the airplane been hijacked, and is it intended to crash into a city? Pilots don’t always get it right, but this is not the sort of judgment call to be assigned to a machine or to a distant controller (whose communications may fail at a crucial moment).

Even so, why switch from manned aircraft, which work reasonably well, to unmanned ones? The crucial argument is probably financial. Manned

While there are many challenges associated with operating UCAVs in non-permissive airspace, the benefits of a swarm of UCAVs that could attack targets without risking a human pilot are obvious. Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

aircraft seem less and less affordable, which really means that we can afford fewer and fewer of them. Equivalent unmanned aircraft would cost about as much to buy, but that is only part of the financial story. Most of the money spent on a manned airplane during its lifetime is spent after the airplane is bought. It has to fly frequently, whether or not it is needed for combat, to keep its pilot proficient. The need to maintain proficiency also considerably increases the number of airplanes of any given type that have to be bought in the first place. For example, the Navy operates a given number of carrier air wings but plans to operate a smaller number simultaneously – say, 10 air wings to maintain the ability to deploy six at any one time. The total of 10 is needed to make sure that all operational pilots are proficient.

If the Air Force is right, and every unmanned airplane needs its own pilot, there is not all that much difference between a manned and an unmanned force. The pilots of the unmanned aircraft still must maintain proficiency. They may not have to be forward deployed (the Air Force controls its Predators from a base in Nevada, although the aircraft themselves operate over Iraq and Afghanistan), but they are still needed in considerable numbers. However, if the aircraft are semi-autonomous, as seems increasingly to be the rule, then proficiency flying is pointless. In the Navy case, not only are 10 operational carrier air wings needed, many additional aircraft are needed for pilot training. Switching to something like UCAS might save more than half the money normally spent buying aircraft (or, conversely, about twice as many might be available for combat), plus a larger sum that would normally go for proficiency, as opposed to combat, flying. The cost of maintaining a large carrier force would be cut dramatically – which would be quite attractive, as carriers offer the United States some very important advantages.

There is another way to look at this choice. How much difference is there between a swarming UCAS and a loitering missile like Tactical Tomahawk? The main difference may be that the missile is not recoverable. Like the missile, a UCAS is sent to a designated target. Both are assigned flight plans, but neither is controlled by a full-time pilot. Another difference is that the missile is difficult to transfer at sea, which is why U.S. missile ships typically fire off all of their Tomahawks and then withdraw to a base to reload. By way of contrast, carriers can take both their aircraft and their weapons on board at sea, hence can be kept in action over a protracted period (the key for weapons is that the carrier takes on her weapons horizontally, through her side elevator openings; missile ships have no similar facilities for their vertical launchers). In effect, UCAS aircraft would be cross-decked like missiles if there were not enough for every ship capable of operating them.

In the past, radical changes to military organizations have been accepted because existing methods and weapons proved inadequate and because existing ones were no longer affordable. Existing manned aircraft work (though not always), but pilot fatigue seems to be a more and more important factor as targets are more difficult to distinguish and as decisions concerning whether to attack hinge more and more on a mass of information not really easily accessible by a pilot. One reason the Joint Strike Fighter is becoming so expensive is the insistence on providing the pilot (as decision-maker) with so much information. The story of the JSF may actually be read to say that manned strike aircraft are no longer the affordable bargain that they seem to be. Conversely, as new attack aircraft cost more and more, we may find ourselves forced to look at alternatives. We already rely heavily on missiles, and it may be that the only barrier to greater reliance is that the missiles are not recoverable. If – a major if – UCAS-D works as advertised, we may be at the point at which manned strike aircraft are no longer as attractive as unmanned ones, and the UCAV revolution may take off.

29-05-10, 08:59 AM
[B]We've had this one before I think on the old board............I'd love to know HOW it transitions from vertical to horizontal flight???

Looking at that pic I reckon the wing isnt bulky enough at its tip to pivot the duct, so 'if' the pic was gospel then I'd guess the wing and duct joint are fixed, and the wing/duct assembly pivots like a fast jet horizontal stabilizer.... though you'd need to have a full length flaperon to point up to give ground clearance for landing :)

Gubler, A.
29-05-10, 10:03 AM
There's lots of info at their webpage. It works like I said it works.


Gubler, A.
29-05-10, 10:09 AM
Really? Jeez I hadn't worked that one out.................:razz

I'm no aerodynamicist but I would have thought that aerial vehicle shape NOT condusive to a transition from vertical to horizontal? I assume that s a jet plume at the back to provide directional stabilty but the wing-to-tip-engine interface seems wrong to me............like I said no expert, so I stand to be corrected.

Transition from vertical to horizontal is easy when its at low speed. The V-22, V-8 and other composite helicopters are not exactly shaped aerodynamically for transition but for minimal drag in horizontal flight. EDIT: what looks like an exhaust duct is actually another ducted fan for horizontal thrust. The wing shape is low aspect ratio so it will generate lift at lower speeds. So as the rotors twist from thrust down to thrust rear the wing can take up the lift load at lower forward speeds.

30-05-10, 03:23 AM
Boeing conducts test flight of ScanEagle compressed carriage

May 27, 2010

The Boeing Company successfully flew its ScanEagle Compressed Carriage (SECC) unmanned airborne system (UAS) at a testing facility in eastern Oregon on May 12. The 75-minute flight evaluated the aircraft's airworthiness and flight characteristics in a simulated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission.

The SECC -- powered by a six-horsepower, heavy-fuel engine -- was launched from a ground vehicle, flew an autonomous flight plan at various altitudes and provided streaming video from its electro-optical/infrared sensor package to a nearby ground station. The SECC was recovered using the same runway-independent SkyHook recovery system used by the ScanEagle and Integrator unmanned airborne systems. The SECC system will complete additional tests in the coming months.

"This is a big step toward adding another aircraft with additional capabilities to Boeing's UAS stable," said Ron Perkins, director of Boeing Phantom Works' Advanced Unmanned Airborne Systems. "The vehicle's 132-inch wingspan and folding aero surfaces allow it to be carried on an aircraft pylon or in a container, giving the warfighter the choice of operating it from air, underwater, ground or surface platforms."

The SECC is a long-endurance, autonomous UAS designed to provide ISR, targeting, and battle-damage assessment.

Source: Boeing

30-05-10, 03:27 AM
UV Pacific 2010: ADF looks to extend Heron contract

May 26, 2010

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has begun negotiations with Canadian company McDonald Dettweiler and Associates (MDA) to extend the service arrangement under which MDA is supplying the ADF with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability in Afghanistan.

Wing Commander David Riddel, the lead for project Nankeen, told the audience at UV Pacific on 26 May that the government had given approval to begin negotiations to potentially extend the mission out to 6 January 2013.

Under the agreement signed last year, MDA is supplying the service using leased IAI Heron UAVs that it, in turn, leases as a service to the ADF on a similar basis to that MDA also has with the Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan. However, while Canada is looking at withdrawing from Afghanistan by the end of the year, the ADF is looking to continue its service with MDA – potentially even looking at the opportunity of taking up the Canadian tasking line.

Riddel said that Nankeen showed how effective a rapid, direct acquisition could be outside the normal rigors of Australia's defence capability plan. However, he said that when deciding on the system that it had been essential that the capability was already proven and had the 'minimum level of risk'.

The fact that MDA had already deployed the Heron to Kandahar with Canadian forces was, therefore, a significant boon. Riddel said that the ADF had been able to learn lessons from the Canadian experience and that it had been a two way street with Canada keen to fill in some of the gaps left from its rapid acquisition.

A key innovation of the Australian contract was the advanced Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) facility. Although Riddel would not go in to details of the PED it fuses the imagery of the UAV with geospatial imagery for near real time dissemination to ADF and International Security Assistance Force forces.

The MDA contract has allowed the ADF to deploy the capability with the minimum personnel including just those needed to operate the UAV and exploit the imagery. All maintenance and support of the Heron is conducted by MDA, which has between 15 and 20 personnel in theatre to support the two tasking lines. Currently the ADF is training for operations in Canada with Canadian forces although Riddel said that he hoped that training could be moved to Australia to better reflect the ADF's operational needs.

He concluded by offering up some of the lessons the ADF had learned from the acquisition and the subsequent five months of operations. Riddel stated that stakeholder engagement from the beginning of the acquisition process was key, as was risk management and acceptance. Additionally he said that it was also important to be flexible and allow for the delegation of responsibility.

By Darren Lake, Gold Coast

30-05-10, 03:32 AM
Ricardo announces new Wolverine family of engines for unmanned aerial vehicles

May 26, 2010

Ricardo Inc., the US subsidiary of Ricardo plc, the leading independent provider of technology, product innovation and engineering solutions to the world's automotive, defense, transport and new energy industries, today announced that it is developing a new purpose-built family of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) engines called Wolverine for both civilian and military applications.

The first engine in the family - the Ricardo Wolverine 3 - is designed to power lightweight aircraft and use military-spec heavy fuels. It is a 3.1-horsepower, two-cylinder, two-stroke, air-cooled engine with spark ignition, direct fuel injection and 500 watts of on-board power, thanks to an integrated starter-generator. Ricardo is studying plans to develop Wolverine engines to power UAVs with heavier payload and greater range and endurance requirements.

"UAVs are extremely versatile and give our soldiers tactical and operational advantages on the battlefield. That's why the Pentagon's investment in UAVs has more than doubled to $4 billion since 2006," said Kent Niederhofer, president of Ricardo, Inc. "In addition, UAVs are becoming an increasingly valuable tool for border protection, drug interdiction, firefighting and more. Whatever the mission, Ricardo will engineer Wolverine engines that are far more capable and vastly more reliable than what's in use today."

Engineers at Ricardo's Detroit Technology Campus in Van Buren Township have taken the Wolverine 3 from concept to production readiness in six months, and they successfully completed the engine's "first fire" on a dynamometer test stand in early May.

Next, the Wolverine 3 will be installed in a small tactical UAV in preparation for its first flight, which is scheduled for summer 2010 at the Nevada test site. Ricardo is currently in talks with over a dozen UAV integrators about putting the engine into series production.

Ricardo's Lightweight, Heavy-Fuel Solution

Over the last decade, military UAVs have been developed to carry out a wide range of missions, from surveillance to heavy-ordnance delivery. Since 2006, the US military's UAV operations have grown from about 165,000 hours to more than 550,000 hours annually, according to the Department of Defense. Today, the US Air Force actually trains more unmanned than manned aircraft pilots.

According to Dr. Ron Storm, director, military market development at Ricardo, smaller UAVs routinely carry multimillion-dollar systems of cameras, sensors and other electronics, but are typically powered by gasoline engines originally designed for lawn and garden equipment, or model planes.

"Today, the engine is the weak link in the UAV system, especially in these smaller aircraft," said Storm. "The military and aircraft integrators worked with off-the-shelf engines and adapted them for UAVs so they could deploy the technology to war fighters rapidly. However, the engines weren't designed as part of a complete system around the needs of soldiers in the field, so failures have been unacceptably high."

To understand the specific needs of UAV customers and pilots, Ricardo worked with military and civilian experts, including Rick Scudder, director of the University of Dayton (Ohio) Research Institute's Center for UAV Exploitation, and Larrell Walters, director of the University of Dayton-led Institute for Development and Commercialization of Advanced Sensors Technology.

"This program has been an exciting collaboration," said Stephen Cakebread, Ricardo project director, unmanned systems, and architect of the Wolverine 3. "As we learned more from people with hands-on UAV development and in-field experience, we realized that an engine that isn't purpose-built for aviation is going to be inherently compromised from the standpoint of performance, weight, package efficiency and durability."

In particular, relying on gasoline creates logistical and reliability problems in the field, Ricardo learned.

"Most military vehicles and stationary power sources use heavy fuels, so gasoline is often shipped in at enormous expense or sourced locally, which means that octane and purity levels can vary widely," said Ricardo's Tom Howell, chief engineer. "It's not uncommon for engines to fail after only a few hours of service, and poor fuel quality is often the culprit. Our heavy-fuel design will help reduce these costly failures that put lives at risk."

Source: Ricardo

02-06-10, 03:05 AM
X-51A Team Eyes Results Of Scramjet Flight

Jun 1, 2010

By Graham Warwick

Following the longest flight yet by an air-breathing scramjet engine, the X-51A Waverider team is waiting to see whether the largely successful first launch of the hypersonic demonstrator will unlock funding for further development of the *technology.

The X-51A was launched over the Pacific on May 26, achieving scramjet ignition and acceleration, but the engine ran for only 200 sec. rather than the 300 sec. planned, and the vehicle reached around Mach 5 instead of accelerating beyond Mach 6. When it began to slow down and telemetry was lost, the flight was terminated and the vehicle destroyed, says Charles Brink, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) program manager.

“We were 95% successful,” he says, adding that the cause of the slow acceleration and short duration is not yet known. Three more X-51As have been built, but their flights are on hold because delays in flying the first vehicle have consumed most of the available funding. The team hopes the flight’s success will unlock new sources of funding and allow tests to resume in 2011.

The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., had been criticized because of repeated delays caused by the availability of the B-52 launch aircraft, but Brink praises the test team for “putting us on point” for the May 26 launch.

The X-51A booster-and-cruiser “stack” was released by the mother ship at around 50,000 ft. and Mach 0.8. The stack separated cleanly and the booster ignited as planned, taking the vehicle to Mach 4.8, where the cruiser separated and executed a planned roll maneuver.

After slowing to Mach 4.73, ethylene was used to ignite the scramjet, which then transitioned to JP-7 hydrocarbon fuel. The X-51A began to accelerate, but slower than expected—up to 0.15g instead of the projected 0.22g. “We were seeing higher temperatures in the back of the engine bay, but have no idea why,” Brink says.

After reaching around Mach 5, the vehicle began to slow. When telemetry was lost, range safety officials decided to terminate the flight by destroying the vehicle.

The flight was the first using a hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet in which the fuel is used to cool the engine, and the heat is used to crack the fuel so that it will burn when injected into the supersonic flow. The thermal equilibrium achieved allows the engine to operate indefinitely, for as long as there is fuel.

NASA’s scramjet-powered X-43A reached Mach 9.7 in 2004, but its hydrogen-fueled, copper heat-sink engine ran for only 10 sec., then melted.

“The preliminary information shows the engine performed very well,” says Curtis Berger, director of hypersonics for the scramjet’s manufacturer, Pratt &amp; Whitney Rocketdyne. “First time out of the box we achieved the most critical things: lighting on ethylene, transitioning to ethylene and JP-7, getting the JP-7 to condition, going on to JP-7 [alone] and running for 200 sec.” There was fuel remaining when the vehicle was destroyed.

The flight control software “performed perfectly, and this vehicle is completely unstable in all directions,” says Joe Vogel, Boeing program manager. “There is no smoking gun, but we will figure out what the issue is and fix it.” Possibilities could be a seal or actuator failure, or a miscalculation of drag at the lower-Mach “pinch point” at which the flight was conducted.

What happens next will depend on funding. Four identical flights were planned, but because the first was largely successful, it is possible the test objectives could be expanded for the second and subsequent vehicles. Brink says Boeing has proposed modifying the software to demonstrate waypoint guidance, which would be a further step toward proving the technology for application to a long-range strike missile.

Brink says the decision to stand down the next three flights was made to conserve the remaining funds, which run out in July.

“We moved to stretch out the program to maintain the critical skills to October/November,” he says. AFRL does not have any more funds available this year, but Brink is hopeful money will become available is Fiscal 2011. “The success may open other coffers,” he says.

Credit: Boeing

02-06-10, 02:25 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

VTOL UAV could aid fight against pirates

By Arie Egozi

Israeli unmanned air systems maker Innocon has unveiled a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing concept designed for shipboard operations, to help protect shipping from pirates.

Powered by a four-stroke engine, the 1.5m (4.9ft)-long unmanned air vehicle has a 1m wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 30kg (66lb). Endurance is 4h.

Innocon chief executive Michael Armon says the UAV, which is undergoing flight-testing and is expected to achieve full capability within months, will be capable of carrying a 5kg payload, probably the day/night optical T-Stamp unit made by Controp in Israel. "This payload and others of this category allow excellent video tracking of targets in day and night conditions," Armon says.

© Innocon/Tim Bicheno-Brown

The aircraft will be equipped with Innocon's Naviator flight management system, enabling fully autonomous operation from take-off until landing. "The system will be operated by a simple laptop from the ship's bridge," says Armon. The system price is expected to be about $300,000.

"Our idea is to put some of these special UAV systems on cargo ships so that they can give an early warning about a planned pirate attack," he says.

The as-yet unnamed system is based on a 10-year-old design by a US inventor who is a partner in the programme, says Armon.

07-06-10, 04:54 PM

SOURCE:Flight Daily News

ILA: Germany's first Euro Hawk to fly next month

By Craig Hoyle

Northrop Grumman (display V, stand 674) and EADS (hall 7, stand 100) are exhibiting a full-scale replica of Germany's Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle at the show, as their prototype system is within weeks of making its first flight in the USA.

A modified version of the US Air Force's Block 20 RQ-4B Global Hawk, the first of Germany's planned five new signals intelligence aircraft on 19 May cleared its "full dress rehearsal" before flying from Palmdale, California, says Jim Kohn, Northrop's Euro Hawk programme director.

This involved the UAV making an aborted take-off from a speed of around 65kt (120km/h), before coming to a halt and shutting down on the runway. Earlier ground runs on 8 April had assessed the air vehicle at taxi speeds of between 6kt and 70kt.

To be equipped with an EADS Defence & Security-developed payload incorporating communication and electronic intelligence-gathering sensors, the fleet will replace the German air force's two Dassault-Breguet Atlantic surveillance aircraft from late 2011.

© Northrop Grumman

Integration testing involving the aircraft, its launch and recovery element equipment at Palmdale and mission control systems at Edwards AFB, California, has also been conducted, along with laboratory trials using a payload emulator.

"All the testing has gone extremely well," says Kohn.

The first flight milestone is expected next month, after personnel from Germany's WTD-61 flight-test centre have completed the paperwork for its preliminary airworthiness certificate, and the US State Department has granted diplomatic clearance.

Unveiled last October, the prototype Euro Hawk will then enter a roughly six-month period of flight testing from Edwards AFB. It had originally been due to fly in mid-2009, and Kohn attributes the delay to "a lot of little things". Northrop's main commitment remains its continued support for the operational needs of the USAF's Global Hawk fleet, he adds.

Kohn expects the Euro Hawk to be flown to Germany in early 2011, with the high-altitude, long-endurance UAV to route over Canada and to the north of the UK before entering German airspace. It should be handed over to the German air force late the same year, with the service's first pilot and maintenance officer for the system already in training in Palmdale.

Northrop expects a decision from Berlin in early 2012 on its planned four production Euro Hawks.

"We are working on different scenarios for funding routes to production," says Kohn. "We want to give our customer maximum flexibility on when they want to buy those air vehicles."

08-06-10, 01:01 AM
Laser Power Beaming – Creating the “Eternal UAV”

Interview with Tom Nugent, President and Co-founder of LaserMotive

UAVs may remain airborne indefinitely when recharged by lasers.

defpro.com | Since the demonstration of the first functional laser in May 1960, laser science and use of laser beams in everyday life has made gigantic leaps. Despite the progress of the past 50 years, much remains to be discovered in this field of technology. Defence applications traditionally use lasers to guide weapons or to mark, damage, or even destroy targets. Seattle-based LaserMotive has demonstrated a further ability of the red beam of light: transmitting power. Nicolas von Kospoth of defpro.com talked to Tom Nugent [1], President and Co-founder of LaserMotive, about the company’s recent advancements in using laser technology to power different mobile platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and the LaserMotive’s plans to move on in this pioneering field of technology.

defpro.com: First, could you please give our readers a short overview of LaserMotive?

Tom Nugent: LaserMotive is a start-up company based outside Seattle, Washington. We are commercializing laser power beaming, which is the transmission of energy without wires. LaserMotive was founded in 2007 because component technologies had advanced to the point where the power, efficiency, and cost had all advanced to the point where we believed that laser power beaming was finally practical and economical for niche applications. Our first project was to pursue the NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition, in order to demonstrate the technology and raise start-up capital from the prize. We won that competition in November 2009, and are now pursuing commercial opportunities, with the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) market being the most promising one to start.

defpro.com: The thought of laser transmitting power, at first, is a little abstract. Could you please explain the technical principle as well as the possibilities and challenges?

Nugent: In a manner very similar to the way that sunlight is used to generate electricity from solar cells, we use lasers to act as a very bright light on specialized solar cells. The laser beam can be directed in a very controlled manner to a receiver, and the power densities (along with low divergence) available in lasers enables us to deploy these “invisible extension cords” through narrow corridors in the air (in many cases, the beam is less than 1 meter in diameter).

One challenge is that inclement weather, such as fog or heavy rain, can block transmission. We operate in the near-optical region, so we are roughly limited by how far you could see with binoculars or a telescope. Interruptions of power would be managed with on-board energy storage. Another challenge involves eye safety. The optical power densities for power beaming are not immediately harmful to skin or other materials, but the most efficient wavelengths for power beaming lie inside the range of wavelengths which your eye can focus, thereby presenting a hazard to the retina. We deal with this issue with a combination of layered safety systems, including beam shut-off if anything comes close to interrupting the beam.

The possibilities for power beaming extend well beyond UAVs, and are what excite us so much about finally being able to bring this technology to market. Our white paper [2] describes various scenarios for UAV use, both short and long range.

We also see many possibilities in point-to-point power beaming, whether it is for remote sensors around a military encampment or base, or for remote communication relays (e.g., on mountaintops). Disaster relief is another application that could benefit greatly from power beaming. Imagine being able to immediately power cell towers or even an emergency field hospital in a city that has been devastated by an earthquake or hurricane.

Looking further down the road, we are excited by the idea of launching rockets via laser. LaserMotive co-founder Dr. Jordin Kare’s Laser Launch concept propels a rocket by means of a rocket-based heat exchanger heat up inert gas, leaving the more expensive power system on the ground.

defpro.com: What is the current development status of this technology and what have been the recent achievements in your efforts to further develop laser power beaming?

Nugent: We have developed laser power beaming for ground-based applications to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 [System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment – Ed.] as part of our winning entry in the NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition. We are further developing it and expect to bring it to TRL 7 [System prototype demonstration in an operational environment – Ed.] in the near future. To date, our system has demonstrated power beaming up to 1 kilometre away, with the receiver creating up to 1 kilowatt of power. Power levels are easy to scale up, and distances can also be increased with different optics.

The last component to be finished and integrated (as part of our TRL 7 effort) is the safety system to make it suitable for use by non-experts. As mentioned in our UAV power beaming white paper, we are also creating an internally-funded demonstration of extended UAV operations with lasers.

defpro.com: LaserMotive has recently published a white paper on supporting UAVs. Which types of UAVs or other aircraft can use this technology and are there technical limits (e.g. due to weight/capacity of receiver and battery)?

Nugent: We see the first application of power beaming as enhancing the endurance of small UAVs that are already electrically powered, replacing part or all of the batteries on board. However, there are no inherent limits to the power we can deliver, and we can easily match the power-to-weight ratios of small combustion engines with our receivers plus high-performance electric motors. The advantages of electric motors in terms of reliability, efficiency, and noise are well known, so we would hope to work with manufacturers of larger UAVs to develop laser-electric versions in the future.

One square meter of receiver area can provide several kilowatts of electric power, and receivers can be integrated into wings or body surfaces or (subject to aerodynamic and mechanical limits) carried as external panels. For some applications, all power could be provided by the laser, with little or no on-board power storage. For others, where the vehicle needs to fly out of range of the laser or to stay on station for some time despite interruptions in the laser beam, batteries or fuel cells can supply power when needed, and then be recharged in flight when laser power is available. But as long as the vehicle has laser power available for more than a few minutes per flight, we can reduce the overall vehicle weight by replacing batteries with our receivers.

defpro.com: At which range can laser power beaming support UAVs and which weather conditions and flight patterns are required to transfer power? Is it possible to simultaneously transfer power to multiple UAVs?

Nugent: Our current power beaming system has been demonstrated to work over 1 km, and we expect to be able to reach 10 km or more using the same high-efficiency technologies. We also have conceptual designs for systems which would work over almost any range - even from the Earth to the Moon! - but right now those would be significantly more costly per watt delivered. Clouds, fog, and heavy precipitation will block our lasers, but those are generally unfavorable conditions for flying small UAV’s in any case. Flight patterns can be very flexible; as long as a vehicle is within line of sight of a laser, it can receive power. However, we can trade off some of that flexibility for system cost and complexity; it’s easier to build a beam director that only has to track a plane circling overhead than one that has to aim anywhere in the sky.

We’re currently working on the most straightforward power links: one laser system and beam director powering one UAV at a time. That can include charging several UAVs, but sequentially, with the charged UAVs flying on batteries until their next turn in the beam. But nothing prevents several such links operating at the same time; they would not interfere with each other.

defpro.com: Many UAV manufacturers come from abroad, including a score of Israeli and Western European companies. Are you looking at these markets and do you see opportunities for co-operation in the short to mid term?

Nugent: We’re certainly interested in the possibility of working with manufacturers and users of UAVs worldwide. For a small company introducing new and potentially revolutionary technology, the complexities of export regulations and the logistical requirements of global collaborations are a bit daunting, so our immediate focus is on domestic opportunities. But we would certainly encourage anyone interested in our power beaming systems to contact us, and we’ll see what we can do.

defpro.com: In your white paper you describe different scenarios which give the impression that, indeed, there are few limits and a score of possibilities to discover and develop. This includes relay mirrors on airborne platforms or flying power beaming systems that could be consider as “laser power tankers.” How far from reality are such solutions so far?

Nugent: Relay systems are currently only in the conceptual stage for us. There have been technical demonstrations of high-altitude (low power) laser relays, but developing that capability for power transmission still needs to be done. Similarly, there have been demonstrations of high power lasers beamed from aircraft for directed energy purposes (e.g., the Airborne Laser), but for power transfer the requirements are different and would need to be developed.

The time required until such systems could be deployed depends primarily on interest. We are taking a staged approach to technology development. We are starting commercialization at the lower power levels (e.g., hundreds of watts up to a few kilowatts) and shorter distances (e.g., up to 1 kilometer) and will expand to higher power levels and longer ranges once we’ve demonstrated commercial success at the smaller-scale systems. By growing organically in this manner, we not only gain experience in many technical and operational issues needed for the bigger systems, but we also can work with regulators to understand how power beaming is different from other uses of lasers.

defpro.com: Which other possibilities to use this technology in military applications beyond aerial platforms can you imagine? Are there projects to apply laser power beaming to defence areas beyond the field of UAVs?

Nugent: There are many applications of ground-based point-to-point power beaming for both military and civilian use. Remote sensors (especially for perimeter use at smaller bases) and remote communications relays (e.g., microwave relay towers on mountain tops) are two areas we think could benefit greatly from power beaming. In both cases, electrical power is delivered either by swapping out batteries or by running power lines over long distances, oftentimes through areas where it is expensive and/or undesirable to run lines.

We also think there are applications in disaster relief. Imagine being able to rapidly re-establish cell phone towers or even power a field hospital in a city where the power grid is down and roads are too damaged to easily allow moving generators into the city. We’ve spoken with personnel in the US military about their disaster relief efforts in Haiti, and there is definite interest in this application.

defpro.com: Sponsors such as Boeing may give you a head-start on your competition. How do you assess the current (international) competition in this field of technology?

Nugent: As far as I know, we are the first company with proven hardware to be selling laser power beaming systems, certainly at these power levels and distances. We are deeply appreciative of The Boeing Company’s sponsorship, and we look forward to partnering with them in future power beaming applications if possible. Down the road, once we prove that money can be made in this new market of power beaming, we expect direct competitors will arise but they will be facing the learning curve that we’ve already climbed. In the meantime, we’re competing against existing products which are substitutes, i.e., batteries, fuel cells, etc.

defpro.com: What are the next steps for laser power beaming at LaserMotive, including industrial co-operation? Which are the next key milestones of your projects?

Nugent: We are going to be demonstrating an extended endurance helicopter using internal funds in the next few months. We’re looking broadly at UAV companies right now to find the right partner for creating the first “eternal UAV” - an electric UAV powered by laser. We’ve also been contacted by many companies interested in other specific uses that we can’t divulge yet.

defpro.com: Thank you very much, Mr Nugent.

[1] Before assuming the presidency of LaserMotive, Thomas Nugent was a project scientist at Intellectual Ventures Labs, a multidisciplinary early-stage R&D laboratory in Bellevue, WA. Mr. Nugent has also served as Research Director for LiftPort Inc., a pioneer in the development of the modern space elevator concept. While at LiftPort, he led the research team that outlined a realistic path to space elevator development, as well as working on a variety of milestone tests of robotic lifters. He has been involved in liquid?fuelled rocket engine development and testing through the MIT Rocket Team, and advanced fusion propulsion research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mr. Nugent holds a B.S. in Physics from University of Illinois at Urbana?Champaign, and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT.

[2] LaserMotive’s recently published White Paper on Power Beaming for UAVs can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/2wjlczx (PDF 3.33 MB, 9 pages)

08-06-10, 02:28 PM
Diamond, Aurora Team For Centaur OPV Project

Jun 7, 2010

By Mike Vines

Diamond Aircraft of Austria has partnered with U.S. company Aurora Flight Sciences, which uses a DA42 light twin as the basis of its DA42M-OPV Centaur optionally pilot vehicle (OPV) that is planned to fly in September.

Diamond’s CEO Christian Dries defines his twin-engined OPV as a more useful and effective tool than a UAV.

“With an OPV the pilot can fly the aircraft through controlled airspace, and whenever flying gets dirty, dangerous or boring it flies hands-off.”

The Austro-engined aircraft is currently in the U.S. and destined for the military; it will be certificated in the U.S. and formally launched here at ILA.

“In the long run I would say the OPV market will be much bigger than the UAV market, because it gives the option to transfer from piloted to pilotless over danger areas,” says Dries. “We’ve also experienced that a piloted airplane delivers better results.

The airplane has everything needed to fly autonomously without a pilot. It can transmit any type of data via satellite or downlink to various ground stations, but the pilot will be able to input updates from the ground if required. The OPV will also be a perfect training system as you can do UAV training with a real airplane and have a safety pilot on board. It is most important to have a system that allows low-cost training.”

Although he is an OPV believer, Dries obviously sees the need to compete in the UAV market and has partnered with Aeronautics Defence Systems of Israel on its DA42 Dominator UAV which has logged “hundreds of hours.” He says the production DA42-based UAV will have a range of more than 4,500 km, endurance in excess of 24 hours, and an operating altitude up to 29,000 ft. Aircraft numbers two and three are already in production.

“We are looking for customers and having some success. Our aircraft are cheaper than any others on the market and we are capable of producing one aircraft a day, which means that if a UAV, OPV or manned aircraft has a problem or an accident we can replace it very quickly,” Dries told Aviation Week’s Show News.

Diamond is also developing a hybrid powered UAV weighing less than 1,000 kg. “It has an electric-powered, gasoline-generated engine and will allow silent flight, have a fast climb-to-altitude, and will use very little fuel when loitering. The target is for the aircraft to carry a 300 kg payload including fuel, which will allow a 20-hour endurance,” Dries disclosed, adding that the power technology exists and the UAV will appear at a major airshow next year.

Photo Credit: DIAMOND

09-06-10, 02:27 AM
Gliders Emerge As Surveillance UAVs

Jun 8, 2010

By Staff

Bremen-based OHB System, with program partners Deutsche Zentrum für Luft-und-Raumfahrt (DLR), ESG Elektroniksystem, RST Rostock System Technik and Stemme AG, is exhibiting new concepts in airborne surveillance aircraft during the ILA exhibit here.

At the forefront of their presentation in the Display 1 area are two Stemme S15 motor gliders modified as UAVs/OPVs. OHB’s program manager Wilfried Wetjen told Show News that the company first began looking at sailplanes and motor gliders as possible platforms for aerial surveillance in 2004. The S15-OHBs are presented here in unpiloted and piloted forms, but are intended to offer rapid change between the two configurations to meet mission requirements.

Central to the concept is OMCoSS (translated as multi-mission communications and surveillance system), comprising datalink/airborne relay, optical sensors, synthetic aperture radar and wide-area surveillance pods, housed under wings or in a fuselage bay. The S15-OHB has a 200 kg payload, can fly at altitudes up to 30,000 ft and has an endurance of 10 hours.

Airframe manufacturer Stemme, in conjunction with the University of Stuttgart and the Technical University of Berlin, is working on an automatic flight control system, known as LAPAZ, which will offer 100 per cent control authority, 3D navigation and auto-trim.

First flight of the S15-OHB in unpiloted form is “one to two years” away, says Wetjen, depending on financing. Possible launch customers are the German Army and Coastguard. Among roles envisioned for the aircraft are disaster response, aerial surveillance, communications relay, TV/radio broadcast and public advertising.

OHB System is also looking to play a part in developing the Grob G 520 high-altitude research and surveillance aircraft as a UAV/OPV, and the example on show in the ILA static park is mocked-up in UAV configuration. Wilfried Wetjen says that such a craft would offer a one tonne payload and be able to stay aloft for up to 30 hours. Initial development of airframe and systems would take around 18 months, first unpiloted flight in about three years.

The Grob G 520 was certified in 1991. It established five world records for altitude, time to climb and flight endurance. In addition, it was the first composite aircraft specifically designed for stratospheric research and reached a record altitude of 53,573.96 ft (16.329,35 m). One proof of concept, three single seat and one two seat version were built.

Grob Aircraft AG is exhibiting in the Display 1 area.

Photo Credit: MIKE VINES

09-06-10, 02:40 AM
Video: Drone Swarm Assembles Itself, Terrifies Humanity

By admin June 8, 2010 | 12:53 pm

For those of you counting down to the robot uprising, you may be interested in the latest news from engineers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. They’ve created autonomous robots that randomly dock with each other on the ground and then rise into the air– no human intervention required.

The little hexagonal modules that make up the flying drone are completely self-sufficient. In the context of a robot army, that means the airborne robot could be indestructible. Because the magnetically connected ‘bots easily break away from each other, they could blow apart under attack, and then reassemble themselves on the ground, good as new.

For now, Raymond Oung, one of the lead researchers, envisions the self-controlled ‘bots more as a teaching tool for describing control systems than a tool of war. Once the modules meet up on the ground, the way they propel themselves into the air and stay there is is a dynamic demonstration of how a servo system works.

Communicating via infrared sensors – like the kind in your TV remote – the ‘bots quickly adapt to the changing conditions of flight. Each module has its own attitude sensor, and broadcasts its location to others in the collective. That way, if the aircraft starts tilting towards the right, the modules on the right side generate more thrust to compensate.

Add a dash of autonomous walking robots to these shape-shifting flyers, and you’ve almost got an airborne T-1000.

Okay, okay, they’re not quite there yet. So far, the Swiss robotics team has only flown four of the self-assembling ‘bots as one. But Raymond Oung, one of the lead researchers, says there’s virtually “no upper limit on the number of modules” you could fly. By the end of the summer, they hope to demonstrate a swarm of twelve.

After that, who knows. It’s only a matter of time…

– Olivia Koski

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/video-drone-swarm-assembles-itself-kisses-humanity-goodbye/#more-25754#ixzz0qJOGOe9c

09-06-10, 02:43 AM
Here's another one from Zurich.............

09-06-10, 07:31 AM
Fire X Has Market Potential

Jun 8, 2010

By Bettina H. Chavanne
Ft. Washington, Md.

Contractors are playing “20 Questions” with the Pentagon, trying to determine the next big thing the services want.

The latest team to run the request-for-information (RFI) gauntlet comprises Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter. The companies are taking Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) capabilities and marrying them to Bell’s 407 commercial helicopter. The result, Fire X, will be flown in a demonstration for the U.S. Navy this year.

The Navy issued an RFI recently for a persistent ship-based unmanned aircraft system (PSB UAS). The aircraft should provide “longer-duration intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting [and] limited strike . . . from Navy air-capable ships,” states the RFI. The system should comprise one or more air vehicles that are shipboard compatible with numerous ship sizes and be “autonomous, affordable, rugged and reliable.”

Northrop Grumman has the shipboard piece worked out. The Navy is flying Fire Scout off the USS McInerney, where it made its first drug bust April 3. Fire Scout launched for a test flight when the ship acquired a suspected narcotics “go-fast” boat on its radar. Fire Scout monitored the boat for 3 hr., feeding real-time video to the McInerney. The Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment moved in and seized 60 kg. (132 lb.) of cocaine.

For Fire X, Bell will have to make the 407 rugged enough to operate at sea. “We’ve taken a cursory look at what would be needed,” says Martin Peryea, director of Bell’s XworX special projects and rapid prototyping center. “Getting it equipped for shipboard operations is high on our [priorities].” Modification plans are on hold until the successful completion of a land-based test flight.

Fire X will be a four-blade, single-engine VTUAV, designed to carry 3,000 lb. of internal payload and haul 2,600 lb. of external load. It will have an operational ceiling of 20,000 ft. and 14-hr. endurance, although when loaded with 1,250 lb. of payload, endurance will only be 8 hr. The aircraft will operate with nearly any current or future military standards-based control, according to Northrop Grumman, and communicate with the Navy’s Tactical Control Station and the Army’s One System ground-control station.

The Navy wants initial operating capability for a PSB UAS by 2016. It should have a range of 1,000 nm., endurance of 8-72 hr. (a single UAV needs 8-hr. endurance, whereas multiple UAVs can target the 72‑hr. goal) and payload weight of 600-1,000 lb. Fire X would more than fit the bill.

Northrop Grumman’s experience with loading Fire Scout with sensors will meet the requirements for the payload, including electro-optical/infrared, still and full-motion video, laser designation and range-finding, intelligence (communications, electronics, measurement and signature) and wide-area radar, and the potential for weapons and synthetic aperture radar.

If Fire X is large enough to support that load, along with lots of now-empty cabin area for cargo and is unmanned, the aircraft could have uses beyond the Navy’s requirements.

Northrop Grumman has been smart about marketing and testing Fire Scout in the face of challenges, including the January cancellation by the Army of the requirement for what it called a Class IV UAV. The company made a good showing at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Ft. Benning, Ga., demonstrating capabilities in a purely Army environment.

But there is a far larger brass ring than a potential Class IV competition, if a requirement is ever determined to be necessary for the Brigade Combat Team Modernization program. The Army’s failed Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program has not relaunched. When it does, it will be the Armed Aerial Scout—in keeping with an increased focus on manned/unmanned teaming, the word “helicopter” will be removed—and the possibility for Fire X to fill that requirement is real.

Both companies say their goal for now is to successfully demonstrate Fire X to the Navy and prepare it for the PSB UAS competition. Mike Fuqua, Northrop Grumman’s director of business development for tactical unmanned systems, hedges when asked about an Army Fire X. “We are confident the Army will see how important this is,” he says. “Given Defense Department budgets . . . leveraging proven technology for the future makes more sense economically.”

Neither Northrop Grumman nor Bell Helicopter divulge how much they have invested in the project, but the sum is surely considerable. “We’re self-funding,” says Peryea. “We’re combining our strengths and expertise.” Fuqua only says, “We have a level of investment that will get us to the demonstration.”

Northrop Grumman Concept

09-06-10, 03:06 PM
Northrop Grumman Submits Proposal for NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation; issued June 8, 2010)

The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system will consist of modified RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk UAVs and European-designed ground stations; a contract is expected in October. (USAF photo)

MELBOURNE, Fla. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation formally submitted its proposal this week for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system – NATO's top and long-running acquisition program. A contract award is anticipated in October 2010.

"This program has been a model of the value of transatlantic cooperation to meet the security challenges of the 21st century, and we are proud to lead an industry team of more than 25 companies from the 15 nations participating in this program," said Pat McMahon, sector vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' Battle Management & Engagement Systems business unit.

"The true value of this multinational effort shows in this proposal. This industry team brings together leading defense industries and their state-of-the-art air and ground capabilities to take advantage of national investments already made in operationally fielded and proven systems for the good of the entire alliance. The result is an affordable, executable program that will provide the earliest fielded capability to meet the alliance's urgent need to protect its forces with persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."

The NATO AGS proposal includes an air segment based on the Block 40 version of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft that will be missionized to meet NATO requirements. It also includes mobile and transportable ground stations and a world-class mission operation support center at the main operating base in Sigonella, Italy.

The NATO air vehicle will be equipped with Northrop Grumman's Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, which will be capable of detecting and tracking moving objects throughout the observed areas as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects. The entire system will empower a network-enabled approach to support interoperability with national systems and to perform the entire range of NATO missions, from peacetime to crisis management.

The ground element will be wholly produced by European industry, offering the potential for national re-use in other programs. It provides real-time data, intelligence and target identification to ground commanders within and beyond line of sight.

"As a critical component of the NATO Response Force, the AGS system will give NATO and national decision-makers continuous ground situational awareness to enable a tailored response to meet the situation and minimize the need to put forces in harm's way without foreknowledge. It will be crucial for success in Afghanistan and in future out-of-area operations," said Matt Copija, director of Northrop Grumman's NATO AGS program.

The system leverages the Global Hawk's combat-proven performance and unmatched capabilities, with more than 40,000 hours flown at altitudes up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours, well above commercial airspace. The NATO AGS program will mark the first international sale of the Block 40 version of the Global Hawk.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the NATO AGS program based at its Melbourne, Fla., facility. Its industrial team includes EADS, Selex Galileo, General Dynamics Canada, and Kongsberg.

The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA), which was chartered to acquire the NATO-owned and operated core capability, is responsible for the procurement of the NATO AGS capability until it has reached full operational capability. NAGSMA was established in September 2009 after all 15 participating nations signed the AGS program memorandum of understanding.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.


09-06-10, 03:20 PM
General Dynamics Robotic Systems-Led Team Awarded Collaborative Technology Alliance Agreement

(Source: General Dynamics Land Systems; issued June 8, 2010)

WESTMINSTER, Md. --- A General Dynamics Robotics Systems-led consortium of eight academic and corporate leaders in robotic technologies has been awarded a $63 million five-year research agreement by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to create the technical foundation supporting development of autonomous unmanned air and ground systems.

This agreement also has a second five-year option worth $67 million, and a parallel technology-transition contract valued at up to $90 million to facilitate transition of technology to other government programs. Taken together, the entire effort has a potential value of $220 million.

General Dynamics Robotic Systems is the Integration Lead Organization responsible for integrating the broad palette of technology required to create future highly autonomous unmanned systems and leading the transition of this technology to advanced development and acquisition programs. The robotics consortium members include: Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech University, QinetiQ North America, and Boston Dynamics.

"This award paves a path for transitioning the seminal work of our alliance's researchers into robotic products and systems that will transform the battlefield and save soldiers' lives," said Phil Cory, vice president, General Dynamics Robotic Systems.

"The alliance will pursue four technology areas critical to the development of future autonomous air and ground systems of multiple scales," said Cory. "These key technologies are perception, intelligence, human-robot interaction, and dexterous manipulation and unique mobility. In addition, the alliance will focus on the interplay between these four areas to form the foundations of cohesive, integrated robotic systems."

The robotics alliance will advance fundamental science and technology in several key areas including the ability of unmanned systems to sense and fully understand features and activities in the local environment; interact intelligently with the surroundings to successfully conduct meaningful activity, individually or as part of a team; readily adapt to changing situations and learn from prior experience; be integrated safely and successfully into human activity; dexterously manipulate objects in a human-like fashion; and maneuver in cluttered, complex environments.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command provides innovative science, technology and analyses to enable a full-spectrum of military operations. It serves as the bridge between the scientific and technical communities and the Army, and is the leader in providing innovative solutions for the current and future warfighter.

General Dynamics Robotic Systems is a part of General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights, Mich., a business unit of General Dynamics.

General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, employs approximately 91,200 people worldwide. The company is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies.


09-06-10, 08:50 PM
Italy's First Reaper UAVs Delivered Next Month


Published: 9 Jun 2010 13:01

ROME - The first two of six unarmed MQ-9 Reaper UAVs that Italy has sought to order will be delivered in July, an Italian Air Force source said June 9.

A U.S. source who has knowledge of the deal added that the UAVs, plus ground stations and support equipment, could be flown by cargo aircraft directly from California to the Reapers' base in Puglia in southern Italy.

Two more Reapers will be delivered by the end of 2010, the Italian Air Force source said. The delivery schedule has slipped. Italian officials previously said they aimed to take delivery of the first Reapers by the end of 2009.

In addition to an order for four Reapers, Italy said last October it would seek to order an extra two to beef up its UAV surveillance capability in Afghanistan.

Italy purchased four Predators before placing an order for an additional two upgraded versions.

The Italian Air Force wants to have two UAVs ready to fly at all times in Afghanistan, or one permanently flying. Officials have said they would like to dispatch the first Reaper to Afghanistan by year's end.

Unlike the Predator, the Reapers will boast Synthetic Aperture Radar and the ability to fly at 50,000 feet.

10-06-10, 02:48 PM
Air Force Officials Announce Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Training Pipeline

(Source: U.S Air Force; issued June 9, 2010)

WASHINGTON --- Air Staff officials will institutionalize the remotely piloted aircraft pilot career field by establishing undergraduate RPA training, officials here said June 2.

According to Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, the first URT class will begin in October 2010.

"This change is just another step in solidifying our commitment to, and the importance of, this capability to the joint community," General Breedlove added.

After successful completion of the course, RPA pilots will become part of the 18X career field. Graduates will also receive RPA incentive pay equal to aviation career incentive pay and carry a six-year service commitment.

In October 2009, Air Force officials established the 18X career field in an effort to create a professional cadre of RPA pilots to meet joint warfighter requirements.

The 18X career field is a rated Air Force specialty code, and selection standards will be rigorous, to include physiological and academic requirements, said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kwoka, the RPA career field manager.

Future RPA pilots will be selected from accession boards or from an undergraduate flying training board. Training includes initial flight training at Pueblo, Colo., RPA instrument qualification, and a fundamentals course at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, followed by training at one of the Air Force's RPA formal training units.

"The Air Force will ensure that all RPA pilots are fully trained to employ the RPA in the national airspace and operational environments," Colonel Kwoka said.

The first opportunity for active-duty members to be selected for URT will be the January 2011 board. Air Force Personnel Center officials will announce the application window this summer.


10-06-10, 03:12 PM
France, U.K. To Join on European MALE UAV


Published: 9 Jun 2010 17:55

Paris - Britain and France are launching joint technology studies for developing a European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) surveillance drone, said Eric Trappier, international director for Dassault Aviation.

"The British and French authorities are financing feasibility studies," he told journalists June 9. A decision was taken by the high-level working group that coordinates common defense research-and-technology projects between the two countries, he said.

The United Kingdom has approved funding for the European MALE study project and France is expected to follow shortly, Trappier said.

Britain and France are natural partners to pursue a European MALE UAV program, given the operational needs of their armed forces, which are deployed in Afghanistan, and the apparent willingness of London to cooperate with Paris, he said.

"The political climate is rather good," Trappier said. "Cooperation is political," he said. "One chooses a strategic partner."

The interest in developing a European MALE UAV emerged as Trappier and Pierre-Eric Pommelet, Thales senior vice president for defense mission systems, argued against a prospective purchase by France of the U.S. Predator B, known as the Reaper MQ-9, from General Atomics.

A short-term acquisition of Predator had grave long-term consequences for French and European industry, which needed support for their design and engineering teams, the executives said.

The purchase of an American drone "would be astonishing," as it would go against the French white paper on defense and national security, Trappier said. "Industrial issues are at stake. Strategic issues at stake."

Dassault and Thales teamed up with Indra and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to make an offer in May 2008 to France and Spain of the Système de Drone MALE (SDM). The system is based on the Heron TP air vehicle from IAI.

EADS, meanwhile, has said the company would end its funding of studies on the Talarion Advanced UAV this summer if a development contract from France, Germany and Spain failed to materialize. That system is intended as an autonomous European UAV program.

The French procurement office Direction Générale pour l'Armement estimates Talarion could be delivered around 2018-20, at a cost of 1.4 billion euros ($1.67 billion), a parliamentary report published in December 2008 said.

EADS France would work on the Talarion payload, EADS Germany on the air vehicle.

But the French Air Force wants a MALE UAV in service as soon as possible, ideally from 2012 to 2015. The service operates two Harfang interim MALE air vehicles from EADS in Afghanistan, a third is used for training in France and the fourth is under repair in Israel.

EADS has long advocated an autonomous European strategy in UAV systems. The company made on May 7 an unsolicited offer of four extra upgraded Harfang drones to the French government to extend and consolidate the current fleet, a source familiar with the program said.

A repair contract for the fourth Harfang is now with IAI, which is repairing the damaged air vehicle and is expected to be returned to service in the summer.

Predator is an excellent candidate for a near-term purchase, to ensure the continuity of operational capability, a French government official said.

French procurement head Laurent Collet-Billon is due to meet General Atomics executives during a visit to Washington June 15, when he meets his American counterpart, Ashton Carter.

A French Air Force official said, "I have requirements," when asked why Predator was the leading candidate.

Dassault and Thales officials said SDM would meet those near-term needs. The package would cost less than 1 billion euros and comprise nine air vehicles and three control units.

The SDM would carry a European payload, including synthetic aperture radar with a range of more than 100 kilometers, a moving target indicator, secure data link for communications with ground troops and satellite uplink for remote pilot control, Pommelet said. SDM would be capable of handling communications, electronic and signals intelligence missions and could be delivered in 2015 if a decision were taken next year, he said.

The Heron TP has been offered under lease to the French government as part of a road map to long-term procurement, Trappier said.

Thales, meanwhile, is on track to deliver the Watchkeeper tactical UAV to the British Army next year, on time, Pommelet said.

Dassault and Thales would not use company money to fund development of the European UAV.

"We want a level playing field," Trappier said. If the American government funded military research, then European governments should do the same. It would mean the end of a European defense industry if companies were expected to finance their research and development,, leading to the purchase of American products and the local assembly of parts.

"It's a political choice," he said.

Buying the Predator would entail costs of integration into an American network, Trappier said.

Britain had been willing to buy off the shelf from America, but London was now looking to recover some of its defense industrial capability, he said. That made for a more promising outlook for cooperation with France on a MALE drone.

If the two governments were to go ahead with a joint program to build a European UAV, BAE Systems and Dassault would be natural partners, while Thales France and Thales UK would be well placed to take part in that collaboration, Trappier said.

Other partners could join but there would have to be a clear prime contractor. Depending on where the funding came from, Dassault or BAE would lead the program. The choice of industry leader would flow from the political decision on financing.

French and European industry needed a decision, Trappier said. Morale is a factor in industry as the design engineers are anxious to know what the future has in store.

"We need a decision, whatever it is," he said.

A decision on the near term acquisition of a MALE drone is expected this summer, the French official said.

15-06-10, 03:03 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

One-for-Many UAV Control Coming

Posted by Graham Warwick at 6/14/2010 12:36 PM CDT

Despite all the advances in the use of UAVs, it's still one operator, one aircraft. But that could change fairly soon as some multi-UAV management systems move out of the laboratory and into the field. Northrop Grumman's Heterogenous Airborne Reconnaissance Team (HART) system is to be deployed to Afghanistan by year-end, and there is a slew of other multi-UAV systems in the works.

Boeing has received a $9.8 million contract to demonstrate the tasking and control of multiple unmanned aircraft from an airborne mothership under the US Air Force Research Laboratory's Foxhunt program. The company believes the system could transition to development soon after the flight demonstration in 2013.

Foxhunt supports AFRL’s vision of extending the sensor and weapon reach of a manned mothership by the airborne launch, control and recovery of multiple small unmanned aircraft. The crew would submit a list of ISR task requests to the Foxhunt system, which would plan a mission enabling several UAVs to meet the objectives as quickly as possible.

Whereas HART works by routing surveillance requests from handheld terminals via a Humvee-mounted server to the existing UAV ground stations, and sending imagery back via the same route, Foxhunt will use a dedicated roll-on/roll-off control station on a large-aircraft mothership, likely a gunship.

HART will work with a range of in-service US Army unmanned aircraft systems, including Raven, Shadow and Warrior. The Foxhunt demonstration will use multiple UAVs in the class of the ScanEagle, ScanEagle Compressed Carriage (SECC) and smaller. Although the SECC is designed for air launch, the UAVs will be ground-launched for the demonstration. (SECC flew for the first time in May - video here)

ScanEagle Compressed Carriage, (Photo: Boeing)

The US Office of Naval Research, meanwhile, has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to mature its SUMMIT (Supervision of Unmanned vehicles Mission Management by Interactive Teams) system to ready it for transition. SUMMIT was developed for the Littoral Combat Ship's mine-countermeasures mission package, which includes unmanned underwater vehicles, and was demonstrated in 2008.

15-06-10, 03:06 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Northrop to Build LEMV Surveillance Airship

Posted by Graham Warwick at 6/14/2010 4:10 PM CDT

The US Army has confirmed Northrop Grumman will develop the Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) technology demonstrator, awarding the company a five-year, $517 million contract to build and fly the three-week-endurance hybrid airship. Lockheed Martin was the other finalist.

Graphic: Northrop Grumman

The Northrop-led team is to complete development and testing within 18 months, after which the LEMV will be shipped "to the Middle East [read Afghanistan] for military assessment," says the Army. The contract includes two more airships.

Northrop's team includes UK firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), custodian of the Airship Industries' heritage. HAV will be responsible for the HAV304 airship, which is to be assembled and flown at the former naval blimp base at Tillamook, Oregon. (Read Northrop's release here.)

Operating unmanned, the LMEV is intended to stay on station at 20,000ft for 21 days and proving 16kW of power to a 2,500lb payload of video, radar and sigint sensors.

15-06-10, 03:12 AM
France Defense Envoy in U.S. For Possible UAV Deal


Published: 14 Jun 2010 13:51

PARIS - French Defence Minister Herve Morin said June 14 he was sending his head of defense procurement to the United States to study the possibility of buying Predator drones there for use in Afghanistan.

French defense officials are studing the possibility of buying Predator drones from the U.S. (General Atomics)

Morin said Laurent Collet-Billon, the head of the DGA procurement agency, would fly Monday to the U.S. but insisted that no decision had yet been made to buy any Predators, which are made by General Atomics.

The minister said he would be "delighted" to be able to find a French or European solution to France's pressing need for more drones, but that "there are still many points to be cleared up" by European defense contractors.

Morin was speaking at the opening of the Eurosatory defense trade show in a Paris suburb.

French forces in Afghanistan have just three drones - called Harfangs and made by the EADS European defense group - and are calling for the rapid deployment of many more to help the fight the Taliban.

Media reports say France may turn to the United States for an interim solution while it waits for a European alternative.

That possibility has sparked criticism from some French politicians who argue that France must not lose out on the lucrative and growing market for drones.

EADS and French aircraft maker Dassault - in cooperation with defense group Thales - are both working on new drone models but these will not be ready for several years.

15-06-10, 03:14 AM
Turkish Drones Idle After Israeli Staff Leaves


Published: 14 Jun 2010 16:36

ANKARA - The six Israeli-made Heron UAVs stationed at an air base near Turkey's Iraqi and Iranian borders have ceased flying since Israeli operators left the base amid Turkish-Israeli tensions.

The state-run Anatolia News Agency quoted Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul as telling a conference in the eastern town of Erzurum that Turkish personnel would soon take over the task of operating the Herons, which are positioned at the base to aid the military's fight against Kurdish separatists.

"I don't think there would be any disruptions," Gonul said. "Our personnel were trained in Israel and worked there. After the aircraft arrived, they worked [operating the UAVs] in Turkey, too."

But one military official said that the drones currently were not operational.

"We don't know exactly how soon they would become so," he said. He did not give any further details.

Turkey and Israel are facing their worst political crisis since they formed their strategic partnership in the mid-1990s. The crisis erupted May 31 when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish-led aid flotilla bound for the Palestinian Gaza Strip, killing nine Turks on board one of the ships. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and sought a U.N. Security Council presidential statement that criticized the attack. Ankara also wants compensation and a full independent probe into the incident, which Israel has so far rejected.

Under a $188 million, 2005 deal with Israeli companies Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit, Turkey received the six Herons in April, and another four are scheduled to be delivered in July. The program was delayed by more than two years.

15-06-10, 06:47 AM
France, Britain Could Team on UAV

European Industry Fights To Protect Home Markets


Published: 14 June 2010

Britain and France have moved a step closer to collaborating on the development of a next-generation medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV.

MALE Potential: The Talarion by EADS is among the candidates to fill medium-altitude, long-endurance requirement under the British Scavenger program. (EADS)

The potential partners are about halfway through a three-month study into whether a collaborative approach is possible, a British Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman said.

"The work will assess the two nations' requirements, arrive at a top-level system concept and identify a way to manage future work," she said.

The proposed collaboration is one way Britain might fulfill the requirements of its Scavenger effort to find future MALE capabilities. Industry sources say potential candidate UAVs include the EADS Talarion, a development of BAE Systems' Mantis, and future versions of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper MALE aircraft operated by the British military. Mantis and Talarion could form the basis for Britain's collaboration with France and possibly other European nations.

"The results of the study will inform the Scavenger initialgate business case, which is due to go forward later this year, particularly with regard to the feasibility of collaboration on a candidate solution to the Scavenger capability requirement," the MoD spokeswoman said.

France, for its part, intends to choose a MALE UAV as a short-term gapfiller this summer, a French government official said.

Reporters were tipped to the joint study by Eric Trappier, international director of Dassault Aviation, who called a June 9 press conference to argue against France's consideration of the Predator B, also known as Reaper, for the short-term fix.

"The British and French authorities are financing feasibility studies" following a decision by the high-level working group that coordinates the two countries' common defense research and technology projects, Trappier told reporters.

Dassault is one of the companies vying for a leading role in future French or cooperative UAV development work. Dassault and Thales have pitched the Système de Drone MALE (SDM) for the French purchase.

Trappier said Britain and France, both of which have military forces deployed in Afghanistan, are natural partners to pursue a European MALE UAV program.

Moreover, Trappier said, "The political climate is rather good," with London and Paris apparently willing to work together.

"Cooperation is political," he said. "One chooses a strategic partner."

Indeed, Europe's two biggest defense spenders are moving closer together across a range of equipment and military requirements. The two sides already have agreed upon a joint research and technology road map for UAVs, part of a 100 million euro ($121 million) pot earmarked for various projects. The French authorities are seriously exploring the possibility of purchasing the Reaper as a short-term buy to meet operational requirements. But the prospect of buying off-the-shelf American has raised deep concern over the sovereignty of European capabilities in drones.

At the June 9 press conference, Trappier and Pierre-Eric Pommelet, Thales senior vice president for defense mission systems, argued against a Predator purchase. They said that even the proposed short-term acquisition of the Reaper would have grave long-term consequences for French and European industry.

Trappier said the purchase of an American drone "would be astonishing," as it would go against the French government's white paper on defense and national security.

"Industrial issues are at stake. Strategic issues at stake," he said.

Yet France continues to call Predator an excellent candidate for a near-term purchase. French procurement head Laurent Collet-Billon is to meet General Atomics executives during a June 15 visit to Washington, where he will meet his Pentagon counterpart, Ashton Carter.

Asked why Predator apparently leads the pack of candidates, a French Air Force official said, "I have requirements."

But Dassault and Thales argue that those near-term needs could be met by the SDM, which the French companies teamed up with Indra of Spain and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to offer to France and Spain in May 2008. They say a package of three control stations and nine UAVs would cost less than 1 billion euros and could be delivered in 2015 if a decision is made next year.

Pommelet said the SDM, which is based in IAI's Heron TP UAV, would carry a European payload, including a synthetic aperture radar with a range of more than 100 kilometers, a moving target indicator radar, a secure data link for communications with ground troops, and a satellite uplink for remote pilot control. The SDM could handle communications, electronic and signals intelligence missions, he said.

The Heron TP has been offered under lease to the French government as part of a map to long-term procurement, Trappier said.

Meanwhile, EADS, which has long advocated an autonomous European strategy for UAVs, said it will stop funding studies of its Talarion Advanced UAV this summer unless France, Germany and Spain offer a development contract.

Dassault and Thales would not put in company money to fund development of the European UAV. If the American government funds military research, then European governments should do the same, Trappier said.

"We want a level playing field," he said.

It would end the European defense industry if companies are expected to finance their own R&D, leading to the purchase of American products and the local assembly of parts, Trappier explained.

"It's a political choice," he said.

Trappier said Britain had been willing to buy off the shelf from the United States, but London is looking to recover some of its defense industrial capability. That makes for a more promising outlook for cooperation with France on a MALE drone.

If the two governments launch a joint UAV program, BAE Systems and Dassault would be natural partners, while Thales France and Thales UK would be well-placed to take part in that collaboration, Trappier said.

Other partners could join, but there would have to be a clear prime contractor. Depending on where the funding comes from, Dassault or BAE would lead the program. The choice of industry leader would flow from the political decision on financing.

French and European industry need a decision, Trappier said. Morale is a factor in industry, as the design engineers are anxious to know what the future has in store.

"We need a decision, whatever it is," he said.

The DGA estimates that Talarion could be delivered around 2018 or 2020 for 1.4 billion euros, according to a December 2008 parliamentary report. EADS France would work on the Talarion payload, EADS Germany on the air vehicle.

But the French Air Force wants a MALE UAV in service as soon as possible, ideally from 2012 to 2015.

EADS offered another option on May 7, proposing to sell France four upgraded Harfang drones, a source familiar with the program said. The service already operates two EADS Harfang MALE UAVs in Afghanistan, a third is used for training in France, and the fourth is being repaired by IAI in Israel and expected to return to service this summer.

Meanwhile, Thales is on track to deliver the Watchkeeper tactical UAV to the British Army next year, on time, Pommelet said. ■

E-mail: achuter@defensenews.com; ptran@defensenews.com.

15-06-10, 06:49 AM
Border Patrol at 19,000 Feet

UAVs Take Flight Along Texas Border - During Daylight


Published: 14 June 2010

A Predator UAV climbed into the early morning Arizona sky June 1 and headed east to conduct the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's first surveillance flight along the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas.

Cruising at 19,000 feet, the Predator B's camera fed a stream of video images to operators back at Libby Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and to U.S. Border Patrol agents at posts along the flight path between El Paso and Big Bend National Park, where the UAV had to turn around.

The flight was months in the making as members of the Texas congressional delegation pressed the Federal Aviation Administration to permit pilotless aircraft flights in Texas' crowded airspace.

Texans were demanding the Predator surveillance flights as a rising tide of drug-fueled violence swept along the Mexican side of the border and occasionally splashed over into Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said Predator flights were needed to help law enforcement officials catch illegal immigrants "and to protect communities from the violence associated with narco-terrorism and drug and arms trafficking."

Hutchison, who is attempting to get $144 million budgeted for UAV operations in Texas, said, "We must employ state-of-the-art border monitoring and security techniques."

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, called the UAV flights "a critically important new means for providing homeland security in Texas." UAVs flying along the Rio Grande "will gather real-time intelligence on the ground to augment" the work of law enforcement agents on the border, he said.

Predators have proven valuable for patrolling the border in Arizona, New Mexico and California, where they have been operating since 2005. They are credited with contributing to the seizure of more than 25,000 pounds of marijuana and the arrest of more than 5,000 illegal immigrants. In 2006, a patrolling Predator crashed in the Arizona desert.

Operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, the Predators provide persistent surveillance day and night with a combination of optical and infrared video cameras and surface search and ground moving target indicator radars.

Watching video as it is being shot from more than three miles up, border patrol agents can tell the difference between heavily laden drug smugglers and casual hikers, CBP officials say.

The UAV is equipped with a laser illuminator that can be locked on targets. The light is invisible to the eye, but to border agents with night vision goggles, smugglers hiding in the dark stand out as if illuminated by a spotlight.

The border agency flies Predator Bs, which are 36 feet long, have a 66-foot wing span and weigh 10,500 pounds. They're powered by 900-horsepower turboprop engines developed specifically for long-endurance flights. Each aircraft costs more than $10 million.

Endurance is a key UAV advantage. The Customs and Border Protection agency says its Predator Bs can stay aloft for up to 20 hours. UAV maker General Atomics says the Predator B can fly for more than 30 hours. It can fly up to 50,000 feet.

Manned aircraft flights typically are much shorter. The maximum flight time for a Black Hawk helicopter, for example, is two hours and 18 minutes.

The CBP says Predator Bs allow border agents "to safely conduct missions in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise too high-risk for manned aircraft or CBP ground personnel."

But restrictions imposed by the FAA may limit the Predators' usefulness in Texas.

For example, the unmanned planes generally won't fly at night, a congressional aide said, even though night is when illegal activity along the border is greatest. That restriction was ordered because the FAA wants the UAVs to be watched carefully by air traffic monitors, but many of the control towers in the small airports near the border do not operate at night, the aide said.

"The goal is 24-hour operation on the border, but that will take more assets," he said.

A key concern for the FAA is how well unmanned and manned aircraft will mix. There is a lot more air traffic in Texas than in Arizona or New Mexico, said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.

There are no automated crash avoidance systems for Predators or other UAVs.

"The technology does not exist. That's one of the challenges that exists" in allowing UAVs to fly in Texas.

There are others, according to congressional staffers who met with FAA officials to work out operating rules that led to an FAA "certificate of authorization" to fly UAVs from El Paso to Big Bend.

Predator operators in Arizona had to identify in advance where they would land their UAVs should they become disabled in flight over Texas, a staffer said. And they had to work out agreements so that the UAVs would be watched by air traffic controllers at all times during their flights.

In New Mexico, Arizona and California, where Predators are already operating, there is plenty of government-owned land where disabled UAVs could ditch if necessary. In Texas, by contrast, most of the land along the border is privately owned and actively used, a staffer said.

Hutchison said she hopes the FAA's approval to fly Predators between El Paso and Big Bend will lead to flights later this summer along the entire 2,000-mile Texas-Mexico border. Texas lawmakers want to establish a Predator operations center in Corpus Christi.

"We hope this provides a precedent" for greater use of UAVs across the United States, an aide said. Police agencies have already expressed interest in using UAVs for surveillance. And oil companies want to use them to inspect offshore drilling rigs, he said.

The U.S. Forest Service has used a modified Predator B to map forest fires. And Brown of the FAA said they have been used for damage surveillance after recent hurricanes, the earthquake in Haiti and the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Predators are used to patrol parts of the northern U.S. border with Canada, and the Coast Guard has tested them in Florida for search and rescue operations and to spot drug smugglers.

The Congressional Research Service issued a word of caution in a 2008 report about increasing UAV use. Although UAVs are substantially less expensive to buy than manned aircraft, they cost more to operate. That's because a single UAV requires up to 20 support personnel, the CRS said. And limited tests by the Department of Homeland Security showed UAVs were less effective than manned aircraft at supporting the apprehension of unauthorized aliens. ■

E-mail: bmatthews@defensenews.com.

15-06-10, 07:30 AM
French forces in Afghanistan have just three drones - called Harfangs and made by the EADS European defense group - and are calling for the rapid deployment of many more to help the fight the Taliban.

The French call them Harfangs, others call them Heron's. Apparently the French are none too happy for others to know they fly Israeli made UAV's... Might lead to probing questions about the "advanced" nature of the French defence industry...

15-06-10, 08:00 AM
I like the quote "made by EADS"................:shakehead

15-06-10, 08:00 AM
Marine Corps Seeking Robotic Cargo Aircraft to Resupply Troops

July 2010 National Defense article

By Grace V. Jean

Roadside bombs have claimed the lives of hundreds of marines who were protecting convoys en route to replenish forward operating bases with water, food and supplies. Officials want to take trucks and troops off the roads in Afghanistan by relying instead on unmanned helicopters to deliver the cargo.

Following successful demonstrations of the concept with commercial technologies, the Marine Corps is pushing ahead with plans to rush a system to the front lines.

Naval Air Systems Command in May released a notice of its intent to conduct a competition for the procurement of a cargo unmanned aircraft system capable of carrying sling loads weighing at least 750 pounds.

The command has received responses from industry and it is anticipating the release of a request for proposals this month.

“We are looking to procure one system, which includes two air vehicles, an associated ground station and support equipment,” wrote Eric Pratson, cargo UAS integrated product team lead, in response to questions from National Defense.

The contract will be awarded about six months following the release of the RFP and deployment of the system is expected within nine months of the award, he said.

“The effort is a military utility assessment of a viable system,” he added.

A company of marines at a forward operating base typically needs 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of cargo delivered each day.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory earlier this year conducted resupply experiments with two autonomous helicopter systems at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The team tested Kaman Aerospace Corp.’s K-MAX and Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird in missions that included delivering 2,500 pounds of cargo over a distance of 150 nautical miles within a six-hour period.
Kaman partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp. to turn its piloted helicopter, employed by the logging industry since the 1960s, into an unmanned system. Boeing’s aircraft was designed as an autonomous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, but it needed to be adapted for hauling cargo.

In the demonstrations at Dugway, one of the simulated forward operating bases was located at 4,300 feet to emulate the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

The two systems each had 72-hour preparation periods followed by three days of flight demonstrations. The sorties included one night flight.

“We gave them their missions every day” in a format that aircraft operators use in actual flight operations, said Marine Capt. Amanda Mowry, aviation combat element project officer and the immediate cargo UAS demonstration lead at the lab. During the sorties, the aircraft had to complete specific tasks, such as holding a hover at 12,000 feet for a minute with a load, and then continuing along the route and climbing to a higher altitude.

The UAS had to carry loads of standard-sized pallets measuring 40 inches by 48 inches and 67 inches in height.

“It forced the sling-load aspect of it,” said Mowry. “Marines work with pallets. They’re used to it. It set a baseline and they could adjust from there.”

Both systems completed successful demonstrations, she said.

The K-MAX carried 1,500-pound loads for every sortie except the final demonstration during which it carried almost 3,000 pounds distributed on a carousel of four pallets weighing 750 pounds each. “Not only that, they were able to drop them off at multiple locations,” said Mowry.

The Hummingbird carried 1,250 pounds on every sortie and was able to deliver the load accurately within three meters of the objective. “Once they literally landed on the stake and took it with them,” said Mowry. “They also flew a little faster.” The Hummingbird’s average speed with a sling load was about 80 to 85 knots. The K-MAX flew an average of 70 knots.

Both systems fly with more stability than a human pilot could provide at the controls, said Charles Johnson, a retired marine who flew CH-46 helicopters on active duty and now supports the lab as a contractor on the cargo UAS demo team. The systems are not affected by adverse weather conditions because they rely on sensors to prevent mid-air collisions. “A pilot can’t fly in mountainous terrain with fog or clouds or rain,” Johnson pointed out.

When the team began its initial foray into the project two years ago, it was told by government officials that cargo UAS technology was not feasible. But when the team sought input from industry last year, it received five proposals.

“Our desire was to be able to get a system over there yesterday, that could take these vehicles off the roads and resupply the marines that are out there,” said Johnson.

A typical resupply convoy might only have to travel 60 miles out and back, depending on the distance between forward operating bases. But that drive might take 16 to 24 hours with a caravan of 12 or more vehicles. One single UAS could carry 10,000 pounds of cargo in that same period, as the final demonstration sorties proved.

Both systems flew about 2,500 pounds of cargo in five hours, with K-MAX carrying 500 pounds more. “I think that was a good profile to show the operational capability of what we’re looking for,” said Mowry.

Being able to resupply marines with autonomous, beyond line-of-sight systems is critical because units may be dispersed in locations far from forward operating bases and safe landing zones for precision air-dropped supplies, said Johnson.

The team is investigating the possibility of using the cargo UAS as a casualty evacuation platform.

15-06-10, 04:13 PM
Israeli Defense Giant IAI Recalls Turkey Staff


Published: 15 Jun 2010 09:35

JERUSALEM - Israel Aircraft Industries has recalled its staff from Turkey over security concerns after the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, a company official confirmed June 15.

"We have recalled our employees - it's because of the situation at the moment, after the flotilla incident," the IAI official said on the condition of anonymity.

"All Israelis involved in the defense industry have been asked to leave Turkey for security reasons because tensions with Turkey are high at the moment," she said, without specifying the number of employees.

Israeli navy seals raided Gaza-bound aid fleet on May 31, killing nine Turkish nationals when clashes broke out on the deck of one of the ships, severely damaging the once-close ties between the two countries.

Among those employees brought back to Israel were believed to be specialists who had been training the Turkish military on how to use Israeli-made drones.

But the official stressed the measure was "just a temporary move" and insisted Israel's contract to supply Turkey with 10 Heron drones was still going ahead, contrary to Turkish media reports.

"It's business as usual - we have not heard anything about the contract being canceled," she said.

Elbit Systems, another major Israeli defense firm involved in the drone agreement, refused to confirm reports it had withdrawn all staff from Turkey, but a company source insisted the deal was still going ahead.

The two countries had been due to complete a multi-million-dollar deal inked in 2005 for the delivery of 10 drone aircraft for the Turkish air force.

So far, Israel has delivered eight of the 10 drones amid repeated delays for both technical and diplomatic reasons.

The contract was part of a $185 million (150 million euro) project involving the manufacture of 10 aircraft, surveillance equipment and ground control stations, with Turkish firms providing sub-systems and services.

Turkey and Israel signed a military cooperation deal in 1996, after which ties flourished until last year, when the two fell out after Israel's devastating 22-day war on Hamas-ruled Gaza, aimed at halting rocket attacks.

16-06-10, 02:07 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Scan Eagle Takes Aim At Europe

Posted by Michael A. Taverna at 6/16/2010 5:53 AM CDT

Boeing affiliate Insitu is pursuing talks to sell its ScanEagle light tactical/maritime UAV in half a dozen European countries as it prepares to bring out a more readily exportable higher payload version.

So far, Poland is the only European country to order the ScanEagle, which can carry a 13 lb. elecro-optical or synthetic aperture radar payload and has an endurance in excess of 20 hours. However, the expanding role of European NATO nations the European Union in Afghanistan and naval operations off the Horn of Africa is prompting growing interest in Scan Eagle and its larger follow-on, known as the Integrator.

Scheduled to be introduced onto the market this summer, the Integrator is equipped with new avionics and two hardpoints and is sized for a 50 lb. plug-and-play payload that can accommodate EO and SAR sensors at the same time, as well as a data relay system. A common launch vehicle, currently being released, will enable Integrator and ScanEagle to operate using the same ground equipment.

Equally important, the Integrator features a baseline configuration based largely on commercial off the shelf components, which will make it easier to export, says Curtis Chestnutt, Insitu’s director of business development. However, payload item availability will remain subject to U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

The new model is also a candidate for the U.S. Navy’s Small Tactical UAS (STUAS) Tier II program, but the selection date is still unknown, Chestnutt told reporters at the Eurosatory defense show in Paris. The Scan Eagle is already in operation with the Navy as well as the US Marines and Australian and Canadian defense forces.

Chestnutt says Insitu is talking to five or six European countries about a ScanEagle/Integrator procurement, which the company generally does on a turnkey per-flight hour basis. Executives say interested nations include Spain and Italy, which are eying the UAVs for naval antipiracy duty, as well as the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. The company is also due to meet with officials from France, which is in the process of finalizing its tactical UAV requirement.

Interest is not confined to Europe. Several South American nations are discussing a purchase, notably Colombia, which is discussing a foreign military sales purchase. Asian prospects are said to be bright, too.

The ScanEagle has accumulated over 15,000 flight hours in both land and maritime applications, Chestnutt says. More than half of flight time has been acumulated in Afghanistan, with the remainder divided primarily between Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

16-06-10, 02:19 PM
Sagem Pitches Patroller at ‘Light MALE’ Market

Posted by Bradley Peniston | June 16th, 2010

By PIERRE TRAN – Sagem sent an unsolicited offer of its Patroller light medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV a couple of months ago to the Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), the French procurement office, the firm’s UAV program director said.

A model of the 18-meter, two-ton Sagem Patroller UAV (Defense News photo by Bradley Peniston)

The binding offer of the Patroller consisted of a lease or sale of the defense version, dubbed Air, and the security “S” variant. Each complete system — three UAVs and a ground station would cost around 20 million to 30 million euros ($24.6 million to $40 million) for the S and Air models.

The one-ton “light MALE” Patroller is aimed at a French niche Sagem calls the “interministerial market.” In this business model, the French Air Force would operate the system for the police, gendarmerie, forestry commission and other security or civil agencies. For civil applications, the Patroller could be used to fight forest fires and provide surveillance flights.

But Sagem also sees a market for the Patroller among foreign militaries looking to for a UAV between the tactical drone and the 4- to 5-ton Predator MALE. A military Patroller could be fitted with weapons, such as the Hellfire laser-guided missile or a light modular missile from Thales. It might also carry a high-bandwidth satellite communications link from Zodiac, which would allow the air vehicle to be operated at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

The Patroller air vehicles are based on a piloted aircraft by Austrian firm Stemme, which Sagem unveiled at the Paris Airshow last year and which is undergoing commercial flight certification at Istres in southern France.

Part of the Safran group, Sagem is also looking to add another tactical UAV, which would be produced by an industrial partner, probably a small or medium-sized company, Pierre Jorant told journalists June 15 at the Eurosatory trade show.

Sagem is in talks with potential partners; Jorant declined to say who.

The new tactical UAV would cost around 10 million euros for a system of three air vehicles and a control unit — some 10 to 15 percent less that current UAVs, Jorant said. It would also cost 20 to 30 percent less to own and operate, he said.

17-06-10, 04:16 PM
Sweden To Deploy Shadow UAVs in 2011

Posted by Bradley Peniston | June 17th, 2010

By BRADLEY PENISTON – Sweden intends to deploy its first set of AAI Shadow 200 UAVs to Afghanistan in September, according to AAI and Saab officials.

AAI Shadow 200 UAV flies in Iraq in 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Under a contract signed in May, AAI is to deliver the first of two Shadow systems in March, and the second soon afterward.

The Swedish military plans to send one system abroad, the other kept home for training, said Alan Colegrove, AAI’s division vice-president for international UAS programs.

Each system consists of four of the 400-plus-pound UAVs, a launch catapult and arresting wire, two ground control stations, one portable control station, two remote video terminals, and one maintenance shelter packed with parts.

Sweden has ordered the B model of the Shadow 200, equipped with IAI’s POP300 turret, Colegrove said. The POP300 carries a 640-by-480 thermal imager, color CCD with near-infrared capabilty and a laser pointer.

Saab is the lead contractor on the Swedish military’s effort project to find a surveillance UAV; AAI, a division of Textron Systems, beat out four rivals for the job, Colegrove said.

The Shadow 200 passed its U.S. military tests in May 2002 and entered full-rate production in 2003; the B variant was introduced in 2004, he said.

18-06-10, 06:29 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Chinese Company Selling "Hundreds" of MALEs

Posted by Christina Mackenzie at 6/17/2010 4:48 PM CDT

This is a model of the intermediate range and medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV type CH-3 which I photographed on the stand of Poly Technologies, Inc which is based in Beijing, China.

The nice gentleman on the stand told me that he spoke English so I thought I'd try and get a little more information about this beast. I failed ... well, not entirely, but either he really didn't understand my simple question: "Have you sold any of these to the Chinese army?" or he was being coy (I strongly suspect the latter) because he just repeated "I don't know if we have any client in China." So then I asked him if this was the model of a prototype. He apparently understood that question just fine. "Oh, no, we have sold hundreds to Asian countries," he told me, quickly adding "this flies very well, it works."
So apart from that I can just tell you what was on the airy brochure (my comments in brackets):

wingspan: 7.9m
total length: 5.1m
total height (from ground): 2.4m
max. operating range: 200km
max. level speed: 256 km/h (curiously precise)
cruise speed: 222 km/h (also curiously precise)
cruise altitude: 5,000m
ceiling: 6,000m
endurance: 12 hours
max. take-off weight: 630 kg
max. payload weight 100 kg
navigation accuracy <50m
data link: S band.

The brochure adds that this is "a medium altitude UAV system with CCD or infraned (infrared), laser designator and ranger. It can achieve surveillance, reconnaissance, fire adjustment, target location and precision strike."

18-06-10, 06:31 AM
Eurosatory Focuses On Afghanistan

Jun 17, 2010

By Christina Mackenzie

It will be clear to those visiting the biennial Eurosatory land armaments show here this month (June 14-18) that the war in Afghanistan is a major factor in current defense research, development and procurement—more so, perhaps, than the war in Iraq. Reasons include geography: Weapon systems are being designed or modified to cope with hot-high conditions and dust in summer, cold and snow in winter, and mountainous terrain with steep slopes and narrow valleys. Weapons are also being adapted to defeat insurgents who strike and escape by blending in with civilians, and who are increasingly well-equipped themselves.

With rapid demand for new or modified weapons, procurement is increasingly undertaken in the form of urgent operational requirements (UORs). Equipment is also often developed by companies using their own funds. “UORs are either launched to adapt existing equipment in reaction to situations encountered or to acquire missing capabilities,” says Gen. Elrick Irastorza, French army chief of staff. And given the situation in Afghanistan, he adds, armies want better detection and intelligence, more firepower and greater protection.

Procurement needs also reflect the lessons that are being learned on Afghanistan’s asymmetric battlefield. For Lt. Col. Gilles Randereau of the French army’s weapon systems program office, the priorities for 2010 involve protecting forward operating bases and deploying effective counter-IED (improvised explosive device) systems. “We also need to improve night-combat accuracy because the insurgents are using night-vision goggles,” he says.

Eurosatory attendees will see vehicles and concept platforms that cope with sand, ford rivers, are air-conditioned and heated, and heavily armored but—in a nod to hearts and minds—look less threatening than tanks. They will also view a range of unmanned aerial systems, many man-portable, which allow soldiers to see what is happening in a nearby valley or the middle of a village, along with helicopters that have been modified for Afghanistan.

One area that Eurosatory organizers are emphasizing is medicine. Efforts are ongoing to reduce combat deaths, says Xavier Fernier, Eurosatory’s deputy director. “Western society does not accept that an injured soldier can die, so we decided that this year’s exhibition would put the accent on operational medicine.” Displays will highlight how companies respond to differences in medical military doctrine. French armed forces, for example, tend to the wounded where they fall, while U.K. and U.S. doctrine is to stabilize a soldier and then evacuate him as soon as possible to a hospital.

There are expected to be more companies than ever at the show, including five first-time exhibitors from China. By May, 1,302 exhibitors had signed up, almost 100 more than in 2008. Organizers say they will not be surprised if 1,500 companies are registered to exhibit. Many will be small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from niche markets.

Sesam, for example, a subsidiary of Renk, the German specialist in tracked-vehicle propulsion, developed an automatic transmission for T-72 and T-90 tanks in a single powerpack that includes steering and braking. “We are the only ones to propose this kind of solution,” says Managing Director Markus Westhues. The ESM350 powerpack enables the tanks to be driven with a steering wheel instead of a dual tiller. Tanks reach a top forward speed of 70 kph. (43 mph.), reverse speed of 23 kph., and climb 60-deg. slopes. The ESM350 powerpack “improves fleet availability because you don’t have to immobilize an engine to fix it—you just take it out and put a spare in while you do repairs, which can be done in under an hour,” he says. “There are 20,000 of these tanks and a potential market for us of 10,000. If we get 10% of that we’ll be happy.” The system is in serial production for the PT-91 M Pendekar tank in Malaysia, which is manufactured by Bumar of Poland.

Reliable communications are an obvious and critical component of warfare, especially for troops on-the-move who need to transmit data over a range of 40-200 km. (25-125 mi.). VHF radios have a range of around 40 km., while a high-frequency radio connected to a 5-meter-long (16.4-ft.) whip antenna transmits from 200 to a few thousand kilometers. But to communicate in an intermediate range of 40-200 km., a soldier must stop a vehicle or leave a shelter and install a wire dipole antenna. Comrod, a Norwegian SME specializing in radio accessories, will be showing a 150-cm.-dia. (59-in.) loop antenna that solves the problem of communicating on-the-move between valleys or within a range of 40-200 km. Eric Van Renterghem, business unit director of antennas and masts for Comrod France, says the HF230L OTM is a near-vertical incident skywave (NVIS) antenna that allows communication on-the-move. With NVIS, radio waves travel to the ionosphere and are refracted back down and received within a radius of up to 650 km. from a transmitter. Though many are complicated to install since they are dependent on the ground plane of a vehicle or shelter roof, Comrod’s loop antenna is compact enough to stay on top of a vehicle and can be installed in minutes, Van Renterghem says. It is also designed to withstand severe use conditions.

Thales will be showing one of its recent developments: Spy Arrow, a micro-UAV made of plastic foam and weighing 500 grams (16 oz.), which was first shown at the 2008 Eurosatory expo. The drone was self-funded. The version on show this year is a simplified one developed after Thales was approached by the French army following the Uzbin Valley ambush in August 2008, in which 10 French soldiers serving with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force were killed. The requirement was that anyone should be able to use Spy Arrow and that the system, which includes two UAVs, cost less than €100,000 ($123,000). The air platform, costing less than €100, flies 20-30 times before being replaced. The payload of daylight and infrared cameras lasts five times longer. Spy Arrow flies in 20-kt. winds, at 30-100 kph., has 30-min. endurance and range of 5 km. It comes with a beacon so it can be found after landing. It flew recently in Djibouti with the French Foreign Legion, which is testing the concept before a procurement decision is made.

A UAV that is already operational is Tracker, developed by SurveyCopter, a French SME specializing in mini-UAVs. Tracker has a wingspan of 3.3 meters and fuselage length of 1.4 meters. Maximum takeoff weight is 8.2 kg. (18 lb.), of which 1 kg. is payload. It is hand-launched and flies at an altitude of 2,500 meters for 2 hr., with a cruising speed of 60 kph. and range of 10 km. During a recent demonstration, Tracker flew successfully in wind gusts of 37 kt.

SurveyCopter produces Tracker for the French procurement agency DGA under main contractor EADS Defense and Security, which manages the system, known in France by its acronym DRAC. Destined for frontline army units, it is man-portable in two rucksacks. Each DRAC system consists of two UAVs with payloads, a compact ground station and an automatic tracking antenna. The French army has bought 60 systems.

Meanwhile, NBC-Sys, a subsidiary of Nexter, self-funded development of what may the smallest manned vehicle at the show. The Meerkat 6 X 6 was developed for nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) decontamination as a demonstrator for the French army’s global NRBC (NBC plus radiation) program Perseides, which seeks to solve logistical problems posed by materials that are not easily deployable in urban areas. Decontamination liquids are prepared aboard the vehicle, then released through hoses to decontaminate equipment, personnel and surrounding areas.

Credit: EADS

18-06-10, 06:45 AM
EADS vows to keep self financing drone project

By EMMA VANDORE (AP) – 1 day ago

VILLEPINTE, France — The CEO of EADS' defense and security division said Wednesday that the European company will keep financing its drone project until cash-strapped governments are able to commit.

EADS will keep ploughing its own funds into the project because to fall behind in this technology would mean being excluded from large parts of the defense industry, Stefan Zoller told The Associated Press.

The unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV business is currently dominated by the U.S. and Israel.

"The Talarion is the solution to stay in military airborne systems," he said in an interview at the Eurosatory defense trade fair outside Paris.

"You give that up you would loose the industry thereafter. Once you loose airborne military systems, what will be the consequences for sensors, avionics, for ground stations, for data links and so on? That's why I say we are at a crossroads."

Zoller had threatened to put the Talarion unmanned aerial vehicle program on hold if Germany, France and Spain didn't place firm orders by summer, when EADS will make a preliminary design review.

But he said that EADS has come to terms with the fact that government coffers are empty.

"The shortage of budgets is a reality, it's something we have to accept," he said. "Therefore I have to envisage for still a while EADS has to pre-finance further."

He said he hopes for a political commitment from the three governments — and possibly Turkey which has expressed an interest — but declined to set a deadline.

Airbus and its parent company EADS are still recovering over a funding standoff with European governments over their A400M military plane. Although all parties reached a deal in March that allowed the over-budget and much-delayed project to continue, EADS is still negotiating with the seven customer countries to finalize details.

On Monday, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said he had sent an official to the U.S. over a possible drones buy, saying France wanted to have all options on the table.

"I can't imagine that the interest of Mr. Morin is to make the European military air systems industry collapse," said Zoller.

The total cost of the program is estimated at euro1.4 billion ($1.7 billion), but Zoller said that could go up or down depending on customer requirements.

He said he doesn't want to push back the 2017 in-service target date and there are currently sufficient engineers working on the project.

EADS unveiled its Talarion unmanned air vehicle at the Paris air show last June. The name derives from the winged sandals of Hermes in Greek mythology.

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