Off the Wire, 8/17Australia Investing More in Unmanned Vehicles
Source: Australian DoD
Australia's future military operations will be supported by forces of robots and unmanned vehicles that will be highly integrated and controlled by defense personnel from a distance, Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill said today.
Speaking at the opening of the Amazing World of Science event in Canberra today, Senator Hill said the Australian government was investing more and more on research and development of unmanned-vehicle technology for use in future operations and for surveillance purposes. "These new intelligent and largely autonomous systems will, in the future, be able to carry out hazardous tasks traditionally reserved for warfighters, which will reduce exposure and risks to Australian Defense Force (ADF) personnel," Senator Hill said. "This will be a huge leap in capability for our Defense Force. I envisage that, in the future unmanned battlespace, vehicles will be deployed in fleets to gather information, conduct surveillance, sweep for mines, defuse bombs, and carry out a range of dangerous tasks. The autonomous systems will be able to provide the ADF with increased access to its areas of operation, especially in hostile and difficult terrain. This advance in technology has the potential to increase the operational effectiveness of our troops and enhance surveillance capabilities, while reducing risk to personnel and reducing the cost of operations."
Research into such autonomous vehicles is being undertaken by Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) under its Automation of the Battlespace Initiative (ABSI), working with companies such as Aerosonde, Saab, Nautronix, and Tenix.
"This is a long-range research program to enhance the ADF's capabilities by dramatically increasing the autonomy, performance, and affordability of these unmanned vehicles," Senator Hill said. "Trials so far have demonstrated that these autonomous vehicles can work together in cooperative way to complete assigned tasks. DSTO is exploring the concept of expendable autonomous vehicles, which will be inexpensive to manufacture and easy to repair."
In time, these vehicles will carry integrated communications and other capabilities linking them together and with their controllers.
Senator Hill said advances in computing power, electronics, sensors, miniaturization, and smarter software has made it possible to raise automation to a new level.
DSTO has also established a Center of Expertise in Autonomous and Uninhabited Vehicle Systems at the University of Sydney to conduct research for defense-specific applications.
The autonomous vehicles currently being investigated by DSTO include the following:
* An unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), capable of autonomous navigation through difficult terrain; it can carry supplies for soldiers and conduct reconnaissance missions.
* A remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by Australian company Aerosonde and capable of electronic warfare, radar jamming, data- and voice-radio relay, intelligence, and surveillance.
* An unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), known as Wayamba, capable of autonomous navigation, underwater surveillance, mine and other obstacle detection, hydrographic survey, and communications with the surface without surfacing.
For more on unmanned vehicle developments, see Evolution in Unmanned Vehicles.
UK Becomes First International GMLRS Customer
Source: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin (Dallas, TX) has received a $55-million contract from the UK for the production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets. This contract represents the first international sale of GMLRS.
The initial contract calls for the production of GMLRS rockets with the Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) warhead, with an option to migrate to other GMLRS variants in the future. It was procured under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the US Army. Delivery of the rockets is expected to be completed by March 2007.
The GMLRS is an all-weather, precision-guided rocket that provides increased accuracy, minimizing collateral damage and reducing by 80% the number of rockets necessary to defeat current targets. The GMLRS rocket provides increased precision and maneuverability, and it can be fired from the M270A1 and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.
The GMLRS has a range of more than 70 km. The system incorporates a GPS-aided inertial-guidance package integrated on a product-improved rocket body. Small canards on the guided-rocket nose provide basic maneuverability and enhance the accuracy of the system.
The GMLRS rocket program is an international cooperative program between the US, UK, Italy, France, and Germany.
Lockheed Martin has received three contracts, totaling more than $290 million, to produce more than 2,000 GMLRS rockets under low-rate initial production (LRIP) through the year 2006. GMLRS production is expected to extend well beyond the year 2020.
The GMLRS program successfully completed operational testing in December 2004. More than 24 GMLRS rockets were fired from a MLRS M270A1 and HIMARS launchers over a two-month time period. The first HIMARS production units will officially be delivered to the US Army at the end of May 2005.
For more on GMLRS, see US Army GMLRS Procurement Continues and European System Fires GMLRS Munitions.
Joint STARS Computer Upgrade Completed
Source: Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman (Melbourne, FL) recently completed Block 20 upgrades to the US E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft, bringing the entire fleet to the same "open-systems" configuration, which will allow the aircraft hardware and software to be upgraded at a lower cost while increasing mission effectiveness to meet future surveillance, targeting, and battle-management requirements.
The Block 20 E-8C configuration features an integrated commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing and signal-processing architecture that can be easily upgraded with new technology. Each airplane uses hardware from Mercury Computer Systems and Compaq Computer Corporation.
Since 2001, and through the last delivery earlier this year, all production Joint STARS aircraft were delivered in the Block 20 configuration. The most recently delivered aircraft was the last of 10 previously delivered that were upgraded to Block 20 under a computer-replacement program that provides a COTS data-processing capability.
The E-8C Joint STARS is a wide-area airborne ground-surveillance, targeting, and battle-management system. It detects, locates, classifies, tracks, and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure datalinks with US Air Force and US Army command posts.
With the completion of the computer-replacement program, future upgrades will be scheduled during each aircraft's routine, periodic, depot-maintenance schedule and will include programs to increase the system's value with connectivity enhancements to existing and future systems and enriching the onboard support to the warfighter.
All Joint STARS aircraft are assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, a "total-force blended wing," based at Robins AFB, GA. The wing consists of active-duty Air Force, Army, and Air National Guard personnel.
For more on Joint STARS, see Joint STARS Deliveries Completed.
USAF Orders Predator Trainer
Source: L-3 Communications
L-3 Communications (New York, NY) announced today that its Link Simulation and Training division has been awarded a competitive development contract from the US Air Force (USAF) Aeronautical System Command for the Predator Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS).
The contract calls for the development of one trainer and one brief / debrief system that will be delivered with initial operational capability in late 2006. The system will then be upgraded in early 2007 to a full operational capability, which will enable the unit to participate in the USAF's Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) simulation exercises.
The initial unit will be housed at Link, while follow-on production systems, which will be ordered under future production contract options, will be delivered to the Air Combat Command's 11th Reconnaissance Squadron Formal Training Unit, located at Creech AFB, NV. Additional planned contract options through 2010 will address contractor-logistics-support requirements, establishment of a system-support center, and delivery of a database-generation system.
The aircrew-training system will enable pilots and sensor operators to undergo initial qualification, mission qualification, continuation, and mission-rehearsal simulation-based training in support of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is used operationally by the USAF to meet armed-reconnaissance and interdiction requirements.
The PMATS units will simulate the pilot and sensor-operator stations located within the MQ-1 Predator's ground control station. The simulation will include high-fidelity modeling of the Predator platform, all sensors, and weapons. The simulated synthetic environment will take into account time of day, winds, adverse weather, and thermal effects. A detailed urban environment also will be simulated.
Plans also call for the PMATS to be designed to support multiple fielded Predator configurations and provide a growth path that will support simulation of the yet-to-be fielded MQ-9 Predator UAV.
For more on Predator, see Armed Predator Shines in War on Terror.
New Datalink Tested on U-2, F/A-18
Cubic Corp. (San Diego, CA) announced that its defense segment, Cubic Defense Applications, successfully completed a series of critical tests involving Cubic's Navy Communications Data Link System (CDLS). Cubic's system demonstrated its capability to transfer data from high-altitude reconnaissance and tactical aircraft during the tests, conducted in the California desert with support from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), China Lake Naval Air Station, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and L-3 Communications.
Cubic's CDLS successfully transmitted and received data with U-2 and F/A-18 aircraft datalinks during the testing. The CDLS is an extremely high-speed datalink that transmits signals- and imagery-intelligence data between reconnaissance-aircraft sensors and surface-ship processing systems. The system is designed to transmit 15 different waveforms at top speed to tactical aircraft via a secure network, as well as allow naval commanders to receive intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data aboard vessels.
The tests involved live flight operations in addition to laboratory tests.
Cubic delivered the first of a total of 18 datalink systems this summer to SPAWAR and PEO C4I and Space. The first system was installed aboard the USS Eisenhower in July 2005. Sea trials are planned later in the year.
For more on datalink-enhanced ISR, see More Than Just Targeting for US Navy's ATFLIR.