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Lockheed Martin to produce M-TUR for AH-64E Apache
25 Oct, 2019,
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The U.S. Army recently awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) a $40.6 million contract to produce Modernized Turrets (M-TUR) for the AH-64E Apache helicopter, an upgrade to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight and Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system with enhanced operational and performance capabilities.

The eyes of the Apache are getting an upgrade that will increase operational availability and boost system performance for pilots.

“Our primary objective with the Modernized Turret is to improve system performance, increase reliability, and reduce required maintenance and support costs,” said Tom Eldredge, director of Apache Fire Control programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “The M-TUR demonstrates our commitment to delivering advanced, affordable capabilities and innovative solutions to our nation’s warfighters, enabling increased readiness, reliability and survivability in battle.”

In addition to performance improvements that provide greater rates and acceleration of sensors in azimuth and elevation, M-TUR’s new modular design improves turret reliability by 40 percent and reduces operation and support costs with a dramatic decrease in time required to conduct flight line maintenance. The design also allows for subassembly replacement on the flight line and includes higher reliability components that will improve aircraft availability.

M-TADS/PNVS provides Apache helicopter pilots with long-range, precision engagement and pilotage capabilities for mission success and flight safety during day and night, and in adverse weather conditions. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 1,400 M-TADS/PNVS systems and spares to the U.S. Army and 16 international customers in 15 nations over the last 14 years.
 

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US Air Force officially buying light-attack planes
25 Oct 2019
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A-29 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft arrives at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., in April 2018. (Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is officially putting down its money to buy two different models of light-attack aircraft.

The service will purchase two to three aircraft each of the Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 aircraft. The handful of planes will be used to support “allies and partner capacity, capability and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to an Air Force announcement.

The A-29 Super Tucano contract should be awarded before the end of the year, with the AT-6 Wolverine contract coming in early 2020.

The plan to buy a handful of planes was previewed earlier this year by Air Force officials, but the companies will likely breathe a sigh of relief now that the deal is done. The purchase provides a much-needed show of confidence in the project. The two companies have invested internal funds on the Air Force’s light-attack experiment over the past two years and remain hopeful the service moves forward with a bigger buy of light-attack aircraft in the future.

The missions and basing for the planes will be different.

The AT-6s will go to Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for “continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” according to the Air Force announcement. The A-29s will go to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and will be used to “develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance,” per the release.

“Our focus is on how a light attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the statement. “Continuing this experiment, using the authorities Congress has provided, gives us the opportunity to put a small number of aircraft through the paces and work with partner nations on ways in which smaller, affordable aircraft like these can support their air forces.”

Experiments will continue with a focus on creating a joint architecture and information sharing.

The Air Force has said that funding for the initial AT-6 and A-29 buys will come out of the estimated $160 million in unspent funds that Congress appropriated for the effort in previous budgets. Congress has appropriated $200 million in total for the effort since it was announced in late 2016.
 

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Pentagon’s black intel funding dropped in FY19
25 Oct 2019
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An MQ-9 Reaper flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range on July 15, 2019. (Senior Airman Haley Stevens/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s secret intelligence fund dropped in fiscal 2019, the first time in three years the black budget did not increase year over year.

The total Military Intelligence Program, or MIP, budget for FY19, including the base budget and overseas contingency operations account, was $21.5 billion, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.

MIP funding went as high as $27 billion in FY10, but by FY15 it hit a low point for the decade at $16.6 billion, according to numbers maintained by Avascent Analytics.

But starting in FY16, the MIP had three straight years of growth, going from $17.7 billion in FY16, to $18.5 billion in FY17 and $22.1 billion in FY18.

According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report, MIP funds “defense intelligence activities intended to support operational and tactical level intelligence priorities supporting defense operations." Among other uses, these dollars can be spent to facilitate the dissemination of information that relates to a foreign country or political group, and covert or clandestine activities against political and military groups or individuals.

Part of the MIP funding went to U.S. Special Operations Command as it pursued “several current acquisition efforts focused on outfitting aircraft — both manned and unmanned, fixed and rotary wing — with advanced ISR and data storage capabilities that will work in multiple environments,” according to CRS.

In a two-paragraph statement announcing the FY19 number, the Pentagon noted that the funding “is aligned to support the National Defense Strategy.” That may be an indication that MIP was cut slightly as funds were redirected from the long-running conflicts in the Middle East toward other priorities meant to combat China and Russia.

It is possible the MIP will grow in the coming year, as the Pentagon had requested $22.95 billion for FY20.
 

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Microsoft Wins Massive JEDI Cloud Contract
25 Oct 2019
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In a $10 billion upset after months of legal and Trump-fueled political controversy, Amazon loses out to competitor.

After months of speculation, intrigue, lawsuits, and presidential leaning-in, Microsoft has won the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud storage contract, upsetting the presumed frontrunner Amazon Web Services.

The outcome comes as a surprise to many observers who described Amazon as the almost-certain winner of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, program. Amazon was considered by many to be the only qualified bidder because it had the largest enterprise cloud infrastructure and already had reached the necessary highest security level, known as Impact Level 6.

Controversy has dogged the program from the beginning. Several competitors, led by Oracle, protested the Pentagon’s original requirements for the program, arguing that the rules favored Amazon unfairly over other, smaller providers. They even took their concerns directly to President Donald Trump, who has a well-known dislike for Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO. Trump in July publicly began to question the competition and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in began a review of the entire program. At one point, the president told former Defense Secretary James Mattis to “screw” Amazon, according to a new book by a member of Mattis’s staff. Just days ago, Esper unexpectedly announced he was recusing himself from the award decision because his son worked for IBM, one of the original companies that bid, and was eliminated from the competition.

In a statement, AWS expressed surprise at the announcement. AWS is currently the only cloud provider for the U.S. intelligence community, having hosted secret and top secret classified data for the better part of the last six years.

“We’re surprised about this conclusion. AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion. We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure,” said an AWS spokesperson
 

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U.S. Navy’s new $13 billion aircraft carrier returned to sea
October 26, 2019
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The U.S. Navy’s costliest warship, the $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), departed Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding and returned to sea for the first time since beginning its post-shakedown availability in July 2018 to conduct sea trials.

The USS Gerald R. Ford headed out to sea Friday after completing 15 months of maintenance and upgrades.

USS Gerald R. Ford is the lead ship in the Ford-class of aircraft carrier, the first new class in more than 40 years, and will begin the phased replacement of Nimitz-class carriers.

The ship equipped with two newly-designed reactors and has 250 percent more electrical capacity than previous carriers. The improvements will allow the ship to load weapons and launch aircraft faster than ever before.

The Ford-class incorporates advancements in technology that make the carrier more capable and more efficient, while also providing it with the ability to implement future advancements in technology with relative ease. With increased capability and reduced total-ownership costs – through, e.g., manpower reductions and innovations, such as greater electrical production from the nuclear power plant, the use of fiber-optic networks, improved corrosion control, and the use of new, lightweight materials – CVN 78 and future Ford-class carriers package increased warfighting capability and enhanced survivability in a platform that will keep pace with the threat through the course of the 21st century.

Each Ford-class ship will operate with a smaller crew than a Nimitz-class carrier and will provide increased ownership cost-savings throughout its expected 50-year operational life.

CVN-78 honors the 38th president of the United States and pays tribute to his lifetime of service in the Navy, in the U.S. government and to the nation. During World War II Ford attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy, serving on the light carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26). Ford became president in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and served in the country’s highest office from 1974-1977.

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U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters arrive in Germany
October 26, 2019
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Helicopters from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, include the world’s most advanced tank killer – AH-64 Apache, arrive at Illesheim Army Airfield, Germany.

Apache advanced multi-role combat helicopters arrived in Germany as part of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade nine-month rotation in support of Atlantic Resolve.

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter is capable to take out 16 enemy’s tanks or other armored vehicles during one combat sortie. Designed to get into trouble fast and put it down even faster, the AH-64 Apache comes bristling with ordnance, from an M230 chain gun firing 30mm rounds to Hellfire missiles and rockets.

With the Apache helicopters, pilots able to get low in the trees to reduce radar cross-section from ground-based radar systems. Hovering low allows to mask ourselves against ground observation and provides better survivability should be engaged.

The ability to get low also enables the Apaches to effectively support ground troops.

As to Atlantic Resolve, this exercise provides rotational units with the ability to build readiness, increase interoperability and enhances the bond between ally and partner militaries through multinational training events.

Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to collective European security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO allies and other European partners of America’s dedication to enduring peace and stability throughout Europe.

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U.S. Navy’s nuclear powered submarine arrives in Bremerton for decommissioning
October 26, 2019
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The nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence in the inactivation and decommissioning process.

The U.S. Navy has announced that Louisville conducted its final transit from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Bremerton, Washington, for its final underway and homeport change. Commissioned in 1986, Louisville made naval history by firing the first submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile in war during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Under the command of Cmdr. Robert Rose, from Garland, Utah, Louisville departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a homeport change to Bremerton, Washington, Oct. 7.

“Louisville Sailors, past and present, are some of the finest in the world,” said Rose. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as a commanding officer on this fine ship. The crew’s ingenuity, hard work, and effort has been incredible through a Western Pacific deployment then shifting our focus to moving our families and submarine to Bremerton for decommissioning. I am beyond proud of this crew.”

The Navy has three classes of fast-attack submarines. Los Angeles-class submarines make up the majority of the submarine force, with nearly 40 in commission. As the Los Angeles-class reaches the end of their operational life, the Navy is slowly decommissioning the submarines to make room for the next generation of submarines, the Virginia-class. Currently, there are 16 active Virginia-class submarines, armed with several innovations that have significantly enhanced its warfighting capabilities. The third class of fast-attack submarines is the Seawolf-class. These faster and quieter submarines were developed towards the end of the Cold War with three currently in service.

“It was such an honor to be the last Louisville Sailor to get his dolphins in Pearl Harbor,” said Yeoman (Submarines) Seaman Rodrigo Merino, from Corona, New York. “This is such an incredible and capable submarine. She is old and she has done so much for our country, it is time
to let her rest and make room for the newest class of submarine. I feel so honored to be part of the crew and this submarine’s history.”

During the inactivation process, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility will defuel the submarine, with the hull retained in safe storage until decommissioning.

“It is surreal to be part of Louisville’s final crew,” said Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Joshua Walters, from Gainesville, Florida. “I joined the Navy for more opportunities and to do something with my life, and Louisville has allowed me to do that.”

The submarine’s ability to support a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance, made Louisville one of the most capable submarines in the world.

Commissioned Nov. 8, 1986, Louisville is the fourth United States ship to bear the name in honor of the city of Louisville, Kentucky. She is the 35th nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine of the Los Angeles-class design. She returned from her final deployment May 2, where is conducted operations vital to national security in the 5th and 7th fleet’s areas of operation.
 

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Dozen F-35Bs conducts joint drills with amphibious assault ship USS America
October 26, 2019
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Approximately one dozen, fully-operational F-35B Lightning IIs embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) Oct. 8 during routine training in the eastern Pacific, according to U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs and 3rd Marine Air Wing Public Affairs.

The F-35Bs are assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

The F-35B combines a variety of specialized capabilities in one aircraft, such as stealth, electronic attack, advanced sensors technology and high payload capacity, all while maintaining the agility that fighters are known for. The resulting flexibility allows alone F-35B to accomplish missions that would otherwise require multiple aircraft.

With advances in sensors and networking technology, the F-35B is able to share a superior picture of the battlefield with other pilots flying different platforms like the F/A-18 Hornet or AV-8B Harrier. The result is a force-multiplying effect for the Marine Corps’ existing fleet of aircraft that illuminates the battlefield for all friendly pilots in the sky.

Lt. Col. John Dirk, commanding officer, VMFA 122, highlighted the importance of being able to conduct the training in a joint environment and stated the training was a success.

“The training went exceedingly well. We were able to sustain a high sortie rate, with a high condition of readiness, while interoperating with multiple ships and aircraft across a range of mission sets,” said Lt. Col. Dirk. “To fight together we have to train together, and there is no better Navy-Marine Corps training than living together, briefing together, and flying off of Navy ships where we can strengthen our relationships, mature our tactics, and exercise the capabilities of the present for the challenges of the future.

Earlier this year, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps stressed the value of partnering Marine forces with surface combatants. Particular emphasis was placed on combining Landing Helicopter Assault and Dock (LHA/LHD) ships with superior aviation capabilities unique to the F-35B.

“This was the deployment of the largest number of F-35s ever put to sea, and for two weeks we put sortie rates to the test, deck cycles to the test, and multi-ship control to the test, all while stressing the communication links and tactics that will make us successful in any combat environment, anywhere in the world, as a joint Navy-Marine Corps team,” said Dirk.

Capt. Luke Frost, commanding officer, USS America, said having the F-35s train with America was an opportunity to improve joint warfighting capability between the Navy and Marine Corps.

“America and VMFA 122 are a perfect fit,” said Frost. “Any action, at any level, to bring the Navy and Marine Corps together to form a more effective and lethal warfighting team is important work that America is proud to be a part of.”
 

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Lockheed Martin announces 2,600th C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter delivery
October 26, 2019

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U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin announced that it delivered the 2,600th C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter to U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command on Oct. 21.

This milestone Hercules is an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations airlifter assigned to 9th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, according to a company news release.

A U.S. Air Force crew ferried its new MC-130J to its home on Oct. 22, flying this Herc from Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Georgia, site, where all production C-130s have been built.

Using its aft loading ramp and door, the C-130 can accommodate a wide variety of oversized cargo, including everything from utility helicopters and six-wheeled armored vehicles to standard palletized cargo and military personnel, according to the Air Force fact sheet for the C-130. In an aerial delivery role, it can airdrop loads up to 42,000 pounds or use its high-flotation landing gear to land and deliver cargo on rough, dirt strips.

The flexible design of the Hercules enables it to be configured for many different missions, allowing one aircraft to perform the role of many, the fact sheet states. Much of the special mission equipment added to the Hercules is removable, allowing the aircraft to return to its cargo delivery role if desired. Additionally, the C-130 can be rapidly reconfigured for the various types of cargo such as palletized equipment, floor-loaded material, airdrop platforms, container delivery system bundles, vehicles and personnel or aeromedical evacuation.

The C-130J Super Hercules is the current C-130 production model and the global fleet recently surpassed 2 million flight hours. Twenty nations around the world have chosen the C-130J to support tactical airlift needs.
 

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U.S. Navy commissions its newest littoral combat ship
October 26, 2019
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The U.S. Navy has commissioned its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, the USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) at 10 a.m. CDT in a ceremony in Burns Harbor, Indiana.

The future USS Indianapolis, designated LCS 17, honors Indiana’s state capital and largest city. It will be the fourth ship to bear the name.

“This Freedom-variant littoral combat ship will continue the proud legacy created by ships previously bearing the name Indianapolis,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The crew will carry on the tradition of service to confront the many challenges of today’s complex world. To the men and women who will ring in the first watch, you carry with you the fighting spirit of incredible bravery and sense of duty that is inherently recognized with the name Indianapolis.”

The most recent Indianapolis was a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, commissioned Jan. 5, 1980, which served through the end of the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1998. The first Indianapolis was a steamer built for the U.S. Shipping Board (USSB) and commissioned directly into the Navy in 1918. After two runs to Europe, the ship was returned to the USSB following the war. It is the second Indianapolis (CA 35) – a Portland-class heavy cruiser – that is perhaps the best known of the three. Commissioned in 1931, its service ended when the ship was sunk by a Japanese torpedo minutes after midnight July 30, 1945. Only 316 of the 1,196 sailors serving aboard the ship survived after five days afloat in the Pacific. But it was the ship’s impressive war record that first brought it to the attention of Navy leaders and the American public. The ship saw action in the Aleutians, the Gilbert Islands, Saipan, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In addition to frequently serving as the flagship of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the ship earned 10 battle stars for World War II service and successfully completed a top-secret mission delivering components of the nuclear bomb to Tinian that brought the war to a close.

The USS Indianapolis, a Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments, as well as open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare (SUW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasures (MCM) missions in the littoral region. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical areas in multiple theaters.

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).
 

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U.S. Marines complete eighth annual rotation in Australia
October 26, 2019
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U.S. Marines have completed the eighth iteration of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D), a six-month rotation of Marines in Australia’s Northern Territory, according to a recent service news release.

The U.S. Marines that comprised the 2019 rotation have departed Australia and returned to their home stations or have gone to Okinawa, Japan to participate in other training activities.

“This year’s rotation was a tremendous success,” said U.S. Marine Col. Russ Boyce, commanding officer for MRF-D. “We executed more than a dozen bilateral and multilateral training activities at locations across the entirety of Northern Australia and throughout the region with neighboring partners and allies. These activities enhanced our combined capabilities, and ultimately improved our ability to respond to crises as a united, international team.”

MRF-D is designed to increase interoperability with the Australian Defence Force, engage with regional partners and allies, and provide a forward-deployed force capable of responding to crisis within the Indo-Pacific region.

One of the most significant achievements during the rotation was the employment of the entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force and integrated Australian Defence Forces during the culminating activity, Exercise Koolendong, according to Boyce. Koolendong demonstrated the combined Australia and U.S. readiness to respond to high-end threats, in addition to achieving considerable interoperability objectives.

During the 2019 rotation, MRF-D Marines trained and lived alongside service members from Indonesia, Japan, France, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Vietnam, in addition to hosting international military observers.

“We conducted a number of international engagements with partners and allies from all across the Indo-Pacific region. It was refreshing for our Marines to experience the enthusiasm our partners share for training together, the desire to share techniques and procedures – and most importantly the opportunity to forge interpersonal relationships. We were certainly privileged to participate in these engagements and cannot overemphasize the importance of sustaining such opportunities,” said Boyce.

This year’s rotation achieved an important milestone of the U.S. Force Postures Initiatives by reaching the 2,500 personnel goal, which was established in the U.S and Australia Force Posture Agreement.

Future rotations will be similarly structured, again including all elements of a MAGTF, and will allow for Australian and U.S. planners to include additional units and equipment that provide unique capabilities designed to best support strategic objectives set forth in the USFPI.

As perennial guests in the Top End, MRF-D Marines remained committed to giving back to host communities. During the 2019 rotation, MRF-D Marines and Sailors participated in 20 community engagements, volunteering over 1,400 hours with community organizations.

The Marine Corps’ rotational presence reflects the enduring Australia-U.S. alliance and common security interests in the region.
 

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Raytheon announces delivery of first laser counter-UAS system to U.S. Air Force
October 26, 2019
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U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Co announced that it successfully delivered the first high-energy laser counter-unmanned aerial system to the U.S. Air Force earlier this month.

In recent years, the Defense Department has assessed directed energy weapons—more commonly known as “lasers”—as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting troops on the ground.

The system will be deployed overseas as part of a year-long Air Force experiment to train operators and test the system’s effectiveness in real-world conditions.

Raytheon’s high-energy laser weapon system uses an advanced variant of the company’s Multi-spectral Targeting System, an electro-optical/infrared sensor, to detect, identify and track rogue drones. Once targeted, the system engages the threat, neutralizing the UAS in a matter of seconds.

“Five years ago, few people worried about the drone threat,” said Roy Azevedo, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “Now, we hear about attacks or incursions all the time. Our customers saw this coming and asked us to develop a ready-now counter-UAS capability. We did just that by going from the drawing board to delivery in less than 24 months.”

Raytheon installed its high-energy laser weapon system on a small all-terrain vehicle. On a single charge from a standard 220-volt outlet, the HELWS can deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability and dozens of precise laser shots. It can also be paired with a generator to provide a nearly infinite number of shots.

Raytheon Company is integrating multiple proven technologies to counter the unmanned aerial system threat across a wide range of scenarios – from commercial airports to forward operating bases to crowded stadiums. Raytheon’s portfolio of sensors, command and control systems, and kinetic and non-kinetic effectors covers all aspects of the UAS threat.

 

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U.S. Marines to receive next-generation bomb suit
October 26, 2019
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Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines will soon receive a lighter and more capable bomb suit for protection against various threats, according to a Marine Corps Systems Command news release.

Fielding in 2020, the EOD Advanced Bomb Suit incorporates several 21st century, next-generation technological advancements intended to help EOD Marines withstand arduous conditions on the battlefield.

The system protects against severe injuries caused by blast overpressure, shrapnel, heat and impacts. The suit also comprises an elaborate integrated ventilation system to reduce heat stress and improve breathing.

“The new EOD bomb suit provides the warfighter with additional protection and flexibility,” said Fernando Pena, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the suit. “It is a superior suit compared with the previous system.”

In 2014, the Corps fielded an innovative bomb suit that has provided protection to the warfighter. However, because threats are ever-evolving, the need to find new ways to safeguard EOD Marines is paramount in carrying out missions and defeating adversaries.

Master Sgt. Zachariah Kindvall, an MCSC subject matter expert for the EOD bomb suit, says the new system helps meet the warfighter’s ever-changing needs.

“The new EOD bomb suit will add another level of personal protection equipment for Marines to use,” said Kindvall. “It provides a higher level of protection than what we currently have.”

The EOD suit meets or exceeds the performance and characteristics of the legacy system. For example, the newer system has a more ergonomic design, offers superior overall balanced protection, and provides greater situational awareness and operational capabilities, said Pena.

Kindvall noted how the suit offers more comfort, reducing the risk of fatigue. He said engineers emphasized the design and fitting of the suit, making it easier for the warfighter to maneuver. The clothing is also easier to don and doff compared with the previous system.

“The foot protection, in particular, is much easier to walk in and provides much more comfort and protection,” said Kindvall.

Additionally, the suit is significantly lighter than its older counterpart—a characteristic of the system Kindvall says can help Marines. Lightening the warfighter’s load is important because too much gear can wear on the warfighter. The new bomb suit reduces weight while also enhancing protection and communication.

“Lightening the load gives Marines more flexibility during missions—even if it is just a reduction of a few pounds,” said Kindvall. “That weight reduction can be significant.”

Both Pena and Kindvall are confident the system will be advantageous on the battlefield. As Pena explained, the warfighter can investigate and perform render-safe procedures involving an improvised explosive device knowing the suit’s added stability can protect them from serious impact and other hazards.

“We as a program office must be proactive in understanding the dynamic changes of today’s threats as well as future threats,” said Pena. “The new EOD bomb suit helps to support this idea.”
 

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How the Army will use satellites to track land threats in real time
October 26, 2019
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The Space Development Agency is working with the Army to develop the ability to track time-sensitive ground threats from space and provide real-time information to war fighters. (satellite image DigitalGlobe)

The Army has needs.

One of those needs is the ability to track and target land threats that are beyond the war fighters’ line of sight. Though much of the focus on space sensing capabilities is directed at missile defense or space situational awareness, the ability to see time-sensitive ground threats like tanks beyond the line of sight of ground forces is essential for the war fighter. To help build this capability, the Army is teaming with the Space Development Agency on a space-based sensor layer dedicated to deep targeting that can feed information to the war fighter on the ground in real time.

The SDA is actually developing a trio of sensing capabilities in space: a layer dedicated to tracking hypersonic weapons and ballistic missiles; a layer dedicated to space situational awareness and investigating objects in cislunar orbit; and a layer dedicated to detecting and maintaining custody of time-sensitive ground threats.

While it’s certainly not as sexy as hypersonics defense, it’s that final sensing capability that the Army is most interested in.

“That’s where the Army is most affected and that’s where we’re working very closely with the Army to make sure that we’re tied together. So this is the ability to detect and track and maintain custody of anything, say, larger than a truck and to be able to actually give a targeting fire control solution to a weapon in the field in real time anywhere on the globe,” said SDA acting-Director Derek Tournear at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference Oct. 16. “That’s the goal. That’s the capability.”

The Army has experimented with providing real-time satellite imagery to the war fighter in recent years with its pathfinder Kestrel Eye program. The small satellite experiment showed how the Army could task a sensor in LEO orbit to take images of the battlefield and then downlink them to the war fighter in real time.

But the Army wants to do more than that. While Kestrel Eye simply produced images and delivered them to the war fighter, the Army needs to be able to detect and track ground level threats automatically. Instead of just delivering images to war fighters, the goal is to deliver targeting solutions to the war fighter based on those satellite images.

To achieve this, the SDA told C4ISRNET in a follow-up email that their “plan is to perform image formation and simple automatic target recognition onboard the custody satellites."

That data will then be moved to the SDA’s transport layer, which Tournear called the backbone of their architecture. The transport layer will be a satellite capability that facilitates the movement of data between satellites and then between satellites and the ground. Once target recognition is completed in the custody layer, data will be moved to the transport layer, where it will be fused and transformed into targeting solutions.

The SDA did note that based on mission-partner requirements some detailed processing and data fusion will be conducted on the ground, with the resultant targeting solutions then being transmitted back up to the transport layer.

Whether produced in the transport layer or on the ground, once those targeting solutions are ready and in the transport layer they will be downlinked and distributed to the war fighter through a tactical data link like Link-16 or through a ground station like Titan, explained Tournear.

All of this will take place at lightning fast speeds, as the goal is to get targeting solutions for beyond line-of-sight ground threats to the war fighters on the battlefield in real time. In developing this capability, Tournear said that other organizations would be responsible for developing the sensors that will be used, the SDA will develop the transport layer that transforms the sensor data into targeting solutions and delivers it to the war fighter.

“We’re working with our partners to build out those sensing satellites and be able to plug in seamlessly to our transport layer to do that real-time [communication],” said Tournear.

Tournear told reporters in September that a solicitation a transportation layer demo would be issued “imminently.”
 

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U.S. Air Force Awards Orbital Services Program (OSP)-4 Contracts
October 26, 2019

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The U.S. Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) Office awarded a multiple award, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Contract (IDIQ) Contract known as the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) to Aevum, Firefly Black, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Rocket Lab USA, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), United Launch Alliance (ULA), VOX Space, and X-Bow Launch Systems.

RSLP Office is based at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico and is part of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Launch Enterprise Office.

OSP-4 allows for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements for payloads greater than 400 pounds, enabling launch to any orbit within 12-24 months from the task order award. The Air Force expects to procure approximately 20 missions over the nine-year ordering period. The RSLP will compete each mission among the IDIQ awardees.

OSP-4 is a follow-on to the very successful Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract that is set to expire in November of this year.
“The OSP-3 contract was very successful and served the Launch Enterprise well,” said Lt Col Ryan Rose, Chief of SMC’s Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base. “I have no doubt OSP-4 will be equally successful and showcase industry’s innovation while decreasing the time it takes to deliver critical assets to space as the Center accepts more risks to produce greater rewards for the Launch Enterprise.”

“The Orbital Services Program-4 contract will build upon the Rocket Systems Launch Program’s legacy of success dating back to the early 1960’s by supporting Department of Defense and U.S. Government Agencies small launch efforts for the next nine years,” said Col. Rob Bongiovi, Director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise at Los Angeles Air Force Base. “The contract will preserve, stimulate or enhance the competition pool by conducting yearly on-ramps. The small launch market is very dynamic and SMC is looking to partner with emerging launch providers to cultivate a resilient and affordable launch capability,” he added.

SMC released the solicitation on August 14 and proposals were due on August 29. OSP-4 was awarded in just over three months, demonstrating the innovation and speed in SMC’s acquisition and contracting practices. Awardees are now eligible to compete for task orders, such as the first mission Space Test Program-S28. “The Space Test Program-S28 task order is the first OSP-4 mission and will provide orbital launch services for Space Experiments Review Board payloads, demonstrating advanced technology for the warfighter,” said Lt Col Rose. SMC released the STP-S28 task order solicitation to qualified OSP-4 bidders on October 1.

The Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning, military space vehicle communications, defense meteorological space vehicles, range systems, space vehicle control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.
 

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