Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/23

US DHS Approves Counter-MANPADS Design

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has received US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approval of its design for the Guardian protection system, intended to protect commercial aircraft from attack by ground-based, shoulder-fired missiles, or man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
The company recently passed the last of three design reviews for its Guardian protection system, which is based on the military directional-infrared-countermeasures (DIRCM) technology it currently has in production for the US military and several international customers. Northrop Grumman's commercial DIRCM version is being developed under Phase II of the Department of Homeland Security's Counter-MANPADS program.
The first of the design reviews involved hardware development, while the second focused on software. The third, completed in April, called for installing the system on an actual aircraft. Northrop Grumman is now finalizing the fabrication and integration of pre-production prototypes before it begins operational testing and evaluation of its counter-MANPADS system aboard an MD-11 airliner later this month and a Boeing 747 later this year.
According to the DHS, the Counter-MANPADS program is focused on demonstrating the viability, economics, and effectiveness of adapting existing military technology to protect commercial aircraft from the MANPADS threat. Northrop Grumman's Guardian system makes use of multi-band laser and other technology from the company's proven military countermeasures system.
The Northrop Grumman DIRCM system operates automatically by detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat, and activating a high-intensity infrared countermeasures system to track and defeat the threat. The only such system currently in production, Northrop Grumman's Nemesis AN/AAQ-24(V) is being installed on several hundred military aircraft, including more than 20 different fixed- and rotary-wing platforms for the US military and several allied countries, including the UK, Australia, and Denmark.

For more on the countermeasures systems for airliners, see Movement in US Congress on Commercial Counter-MANPADS and DIRCM Systems Selected Under Counter-MANPADS Program.


JTRS, MIDS to Dominate US Airborne Communications

Source: Forecast International

The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Multifunction Information Distribution System (MIDS) will be the most dominant factors within the US airborne-communications market over the next 10 years. These programs combined will account for 72% or about $2 billion of the projected $2.7-billion US military airborne-communications market, according to Forecast International's “The Market for US Military Airborne Communications Systems.”
The MIDS program alone is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion during the period, according to Electronics Systems Analyst Mark Cowell.
Since its successful deployment in Afghanistan, demand for the MIDS has been high. Able to provide real-time transmission of reconnaissance and targeting data, the MIDS has significantly reduced the time required to detect, identify, and engage targets. Several airborne platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), carry or will be fitted with the MIDS. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, datalink-equipped UAVs have been widely used as strike vehicles, as well as for surveillance and targeting.
Data Link Solutions (DLS), a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems, and ViaSat are both major suppliers of MIDS terminals to the US forces. In December 2004, these two contractors were awarded contracts valued at $82 million and $61 million, respectively, for product improvement of the MIDS terminal to a four-channel JTRS-compliant architecture. Although these companies compete to supply the US with MIDS terminals, they will cooperate on the development of the MIDS JTRS terminal. Once developed, ViaSat and DLS will compete to sell MIDS JTRS terminals to the US and its allies.
Following the MIDS, the JTRS program will account for 28.5% or $782 million of the 10-year market share. "JTRS is expected to replace all radios presently used by the US military," said Cowell.
Under the first cluster of the JTRS program, an airborne variant of JTRS is currently being developed specifically to equip the US Army's helicopter fleet. Other airborne JTRS variants will be developed under the airborne, maritime, and fixed-station (AMF) JTRS program.
"Demand for programs such as MIDS and JTRS will be strong during the forecast period, as both existing and new-build aircraft will be fitted with these systems," said Cowell. Worldwide, more than 4,000 military fighter/attack/trainer aircraft will be constructed between 2005 and 2014.Of that number, 1,171 are to be US-built fighters, with 722 (F/A-18, F/A-22, and F-35) designated for the US. When military transports, special-mission aircraft, and rotorcraft are combined, more than 11,000 military manned airborne platforms will be built worldwide.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could add roughly 5,000 more potential platforms. As UAVs will need to transmit the data they collect, datalinks such as the MIDS will likely be fitted to each UAV. The US will likely be the recipient of the majority of the UAVs constructed between 2005 and 2014.

For more on air-to-ground communications, see Fighting Over Thin Air.


Communications Selected for UK Nuclear Sub

Source: EADS

EADS subsidiary Hagenuk Marinekommunikation (Kiel, Germany) and its customer, EADS Defense & Security Systems Ltd. Of the UK, are sharing the systems responsibility for three external communications systems to be supplied for the UK Royal Navy's Astute-class nuclear submarines.
HMS Astute is the first submarine in the world to be equipped with this new system.
Due to the extremely high security requirements, the communications system was evaluated in advance by the Clef certification company, under contract to the UK Ministry of Defense, and achieved certification.
The communications system was installed on schedule on the command-deck module of HMS Astute and will enable the submarine crew to transmit voice, data, and imagery over all of the frequency ranges used for tactical communication. The system is controlled by special software for integrated message handling, which also satisfies the requirement that the entire system be capable of operation by a single person from a central workstation.
EADS hopes also to win the contract to supply the external communications systems for the second and third Astute-class submarines.

For more on the Astute-class submarine program, see Keel Laid for UK's 3rd Astute-Class Sub.


Integrator Chosen for US Army UGVs

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has been selected as the lead system integrator for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) under the US Army's Family of Integrated Rapid Response Equipment (FIRRE) program. The FIRRE program is intended to provide the warfighter with a variety of modular force-protection equipment including unmanned air, ground, and undersea platforms for sensors, weapons, and support or logistics equipment.
Utilizing these unmanned platforms to perform tasks currently accomplished by troops, such as perimeter security, helps keep military personnel and supporting civilians out of harm's way, while also serving as a force multiplier by allowing these same troops to focus their time and effort on other strategic and tactical tasks.
Northrop Grumman's Remotec subsidiary will provide its Tactical Amphibious Ground Support (TAGS) vehicle as the main unmanned ground platform to the FIRRE program. About the size and weight of a compact car, the TAGS vehicle can be manually controlled but also uses differential, satellite GPS, and waypoint navigation to travel autonomously between set points along a predetermined path. Autonomous guidance requires a local navigation station. The vehicle uses onboard sensors for obstacle detection. Applied Perception, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA), is the autonomous-navigation-system subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the TAGS vehicle. If the TAGS vehicle is unable to find its way around an obstacle, the vehicle requests manual assistance from operators at the navigation station.
The TAGS vehicles' modular design allows it to perform various missions to include target acquisition, reconnaissance, surveillance, and weapons deployment, while being integrated into the current command-and-control structure. Each TAGS vehicle weighs 3,400 lbs. and can travel up to 25 mph with payload of 2,400 lbs.
The FIRRE program is directed by the Army's Program Management - Force Protection Systems (Ft. Belvoir, VA). The US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is serving as technical lead for the program.

For more on unmanned ground vehicles, see Evolution in Unmanned Vehicles and At Your Service.


USAF Training Program Gets Extra Support

Source: L-3 Communications

L-3 Communications (New York, NY) announced today that its Link Simulation and Training (Link) division has been awarded a five-year, $240.9-million contract to support the US Air Force's Warfighter Readiness Training Science and Technology Program.
Link, which has been prime contractor for the Warfighter Readiness Training Science and Technology Program since 1997, will be responsible for spearheading efforts to research, develop, demonstrate, evaluate, and transition leading-edge training technologies and methods that improve warfighter readiness. The goal of this ongoing research, which is conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Warfighter Readiness Research Division in Mesa, AZ, is to develop training solutions that provide combat forces with the skills they need to win on the battlefield.
Under a variety of task orders, Link and its industry team will be providing warfighter-training-readiness-research support, interactive synthetic warfighter models, deployable visual-system technology development, deployable distributed mission-operations (DMO) training, and a DMO test bed.

For more on simulation and training, see Military Simulation Learns How to Network.

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