Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/30

Changes Expected for US Army Aviation

Source: US Army

Many changes are in store for Army aviation, beginning with a contract for 368 new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARHs).
“ARH is the next significant step in modernizing and transforming Army Aviation,” said Col. Mark Hayes, TRADOC system manager for reconnaissance and attack, located at Fort Rucker, AL.
The $2.2 billion contract with Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. – awarded July 29 with a signing ceremony Aug. 29 – calls for delivery of 38 of the new aircraft by FY08, with the remainder delivered by FY13.
“The ARH will have a larger, enhanced engine,” said Col. Greg Gass, deputy director of the Army Aviation Task Force in the Pentagon.
In addition, an upgraded tail rotor from the Bell 427 provides greater directional stability and control authority and the upgraded glass cockpit provides greater accuracy, has better display ergonomics, and is more user friendly than the current display, said Gass, comparing it to the current OH-58 Kiowa helicopter. The ARH will also incorporate an exhaust infrared suppressor. “This device suppresses heat from the helicopter so that it is less detectable by the enemy,” Gass said.
“The ARH will replace the current Kiowa Warrior, one for one,” said Lt. Col. Neil Thurgood, program manager for ARH, located at Redstone Arsenal, AL. “The normal flying hours for the Kiowa is 14 a month, but it is flying about 70 hours a month per aircraft,” said Gass. “That is a lot of strain on an aircraft. The ARH can sustain the current flying requirements.”
The ARH is one of many initiatives resulting from the cancellation of the Comanche project in 2004, Gass said, which took the Army into a new phase of Army Aviation Transformation. “We wanted to optimize our fleet for the joint fight and reduce logistics,” said Gass. “We are restructuring our maintenance and sustainability so that it won’t be so burdensome – more flexible, more deployable, more agile and more modular. The decision to restructure Army Aviation through the termination of Comanche really permitted us to take some of the investment – known and tested technologies – and integrate them quicker into old and new systems,” Gass said.
The Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, AL – recently designated the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of Excellence – brings war fighting capabilities to the field by developing new concepts, programs, and training for aviation soldiers worldwide, Hayes said.
New concepts and programs are already developed to transform Army aviation. A request for proposals was issued in July 2005 on the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) program, said Gass. The first equipment is expected on the ground in FY07. The LUH will conduct light general support in permissive environments and homeland defense, replacing the legacy UH-1 Huey.
The Future Cargo Aircraft will replace the C-23 Sherpa, said Gass. “It will provide tremendous capability in getting critical supplies to forward deployed forces, because it will be able to land on a very short runway – about 2,000 feet, which is a better capability than anything else we have out there.”
“Comanche money provided us the new buys [aircraft], as well as allowed us to recapitalize the current fleet,” said Gass. “The Apache, the Chinook, UH-60 – all will receive upgrades.”
One of the investments is in aircraft-survivability equipment (ASE). ASE provides countermeasures to aircraft to defeat surface-to-air missiles and other threats, said Gass. “We are upgrading ASE and outfitting all rotary-wing aircraft with the Common Missile Warning System – upgraded missile detection – through an accelerated process because of the need and desire to get the best equipment to the field,” said Gass.

For more on US Army Aviation plans, see Rivals Vie for US Army Cargo Program.

Link 16 to Be Installed on MH-60R/S

Source: US DoD

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Owego (Owego, NY) is being awarded a contract with an estimated value of $50.7 million for the Link 16 Full Scale Integration of the MH-60R and MH-60S aircraft that includes research and development efforts to design, develop, integrate, and test the Link 16 tactical datalink subsystem and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) functionality for both the MH-60R and MH-60S aircraft, and the Downed Aircrew Locator System Personnel Locator System for the MH-60S.
Work will be performed in Owego and is expected to be completed in January 2008.
Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Systems Command (Patuxent River, MD) is the contracting activity.

For more on MH-90R, see US Navy Evaluates MH-60R.

Remote Sensors to Detect Suicide Bombers

Source: Markland Technologies

Markland Technologies and Technest Holdings announced today that EOIR Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Technest Holdings, has been awarded a contract by Thermal Matrix to develop a system of integrated remote-sensing technologies to assist in the identification of suicide bombers.
This Congressionally directed and funded program will be conducted as a joint development effort between the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD) at Ft. Belvoir, VA, Thermal Matrix, and EOIR Technologies. The Army's NVESD research and development group is one of the US military's most advanced technological leaders.
The Army's NVESD has been responsible for numerous key innovations in the fields of optical electronics and thermal imaging for weapons targeting, electronic surveillance, and other mission-critical military applications.
The results of this effort are envisioned to be an integration of remote-sensing systems, which are presently under development, that will be able to detect various chemical and infrared signatures prior to an individual suicide bomber getting close enough to the intended target to do damage.
The primary goal and objective for this development program is to have this integrated remote-detection system utilized by both the military and federal and municipal governments for homeland defense in the protection of installations and infrastructure targets and personnel in the US and overseas in forward combat areas and high-risk US State Department facilities.

For more on combatting suicide bombers, see Shutting the Bomb Factory.

Australian, US EOD Teams Conduct Joint Training

Source: US Navy

The members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 Detachment 7 and EOD Marines from the US Marine Corps' 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted training exercises in Darwin, Australia, with the Australian Clearance Diving Teams (AUSCDT) Aug. 15-21.
The teams spent their time suspended from the bottom of flying aircraft, sliding down ropes and jumping from hovering helicopters, diving among sunken war relics, and driving at high speed down the dirt roads of the Northern Territory.
“EOD is a reactive community. We do a dangerous job when called to do it,” said Lt. Scott Kerns, officer in charge of the detachment. “In the meantime, it is great to be in a job where the training and real-world operations are such a rush.”
One such training event was the helo-cast and recovery. In it, a helicopter flies low and slow over the water near the target, allowing the EOD team members to jump out one at a time. The technique is used for quick insertion to dispose of floating mines that pose a hazard to shipping.
The teams also practiced special-purpose insertion and extraction (SPIE) and fast roping. These techniques are used for tactical insertion for a ground or ship target. In SPIE rigging, up to eight personnel are attached to a rope suspended from a helicopter and lifted off or set on the ground without having to land the helicopter. In fast roping, EOD team members slide down a rope from a helicopter, sometimes as high as 60 feet off the ground.
The training improved the tactical proficiency for the US Navy and Marine EOD units as ESG-1 heads into the US 5th Fleet area of operations, but it had other benefits as well. “The whole point of interoperability is to improve the relationship in the Navy and Marine Corps team. In the past, exercises such as this have only included members of the Australian Navy and our Navy. In this exercise, we were able to include the Marine EOD unit, which added another level of cooperation to the event," said Kerns.

For more on explosive ordnance disposal, see Blast From the Past.

Gripen to Get Supplemental Support Systems

Source: Saab

Saab has received an order from FMV to develop support systems for the JAS 39 Gripen. The order is worth $19.6 million and is a supplement to the existing contract for Gripen support systems.
The order encompasses line-replaceable units (LRUs) for support and maintenance of the Gripen system. LRUs are systems and equipment onboard the aircraft that can be replaced quickly and simply, when required.
The order is for additional procurement of systems and equipment, as well as new procurement of LRUs for the latest versions of the Gripen, the C and D versions. The LRUs will be used operationally in Gripen fighters in Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
The contract involves Saab Aerosystems and Saab Avitronics.

For more on the Gripen, see Gripen Settles In.

Flying Fortresses

In The Mask of Command (1987, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, Harrisonburg, VA), historian and Sandhurst instructor John Keegan wrote that Alexander the Great fought decisive battles with two principles in mind: that the enemy would betray where he most feared attack, thereby revealing vulnerability; and that Alexander would place himself at the head of the culminating attack at that point. Alexander put these principles into practice at the Battle of the Granicus, where the defending Persians had arrayed themselves on the high banks of a swiftly flowing stream. Alexander's commanders cautioned against making an opposed river crossing - conventional military wisdom to this day. However, from Alexander's point of view the enemy's trust in terrain features revealed a weakness of tactical ability. He led a mounted attack on the Persian cavalry, which broke and fled when forced back from the banks. This exposed the defending infantry to subsequent slaughter and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.

In modern times, great powers have tended to pour concrete where they are most vulnerable. Great defensive walls and chains of fortifications mark armed borders like lines of stranded seaweed mark the high tide. Defensive projects on this scale point to a defeatist streak, as with the French and their Maginot Line, or a dictator's bunker mentality, as with Hitler and his successive Walls, breached in succession. In the case of Stalin's USSR, it was certainly a bit of both.

When the Soviet Union felt itself vulnerable to strategic air attack from US heavy bombers, it poured staggering resources into a national defense network (see eDefense Online European Editor Michal Fiszer's article, Castles in the Sky). The belts of positional defenses around Moscow alone consumed more than the annual cement output of the entire Soviet Union, which was a very cement-oriented institution. Part of the psychological aspects of an offensive threat is to cause an opponent to over-commit or misdirect his attention and resources to defensive measures that won't really help him.

Allocating funds, resources, talent, and manpower to positional defenses rather than maneuver units suggests a weakness of tactical ability. It is hard to build a military that can be assembled, educated, equipped, and led to victory on a dynamic battlefield - very hard. It requires academies, training centers, industrial and technical excellence, research and development facilities, political leadership, and a free and open exchange of ideas. And it requires practice, practice, practice. Most anybody can build a big fort. And often, this is exactly what most everybody does.

The big problem with big defenses is that they present very particular nuts to be cracked. And given enough time and information, the brightest minds are likely to come up with a plan to crack any defense put in their way. Sometimes, subtle changes can have profound impact on the effectiveness of a defensive system, as demonstrated when the US switched to low-level penetration tactics by strategic bombers or introduced stand-off cruise missiles. Both of these relatively inexpensive offensive changes invalidated the expensive Soviet air-defense network and sent planners scrambling to develop more expensive fixes.

In the US, it's money rather than concrete that is being poured on the problem of securing the homeland. Consider the rapidly advancing proposal to equip US civil airliners with countermeasures against man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). Last year, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) selected two possible solutions - both laser-based countermeasures systems - for further study: one from Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems' Defensive Systems Division (Rolling Meadows, IL) and another from BAE Systems (Nashua, NH) (see DIRCM Systems Selected Under Counter-MANPADS Program). These two proposals are being studied under Phase II of the Counter-MANPADS program, with each company receiving approximately $45 million, on top of the $2 million each received under Phase I of the program. The two systems have just cleared their final design reviews and are entering flight-testing. As eDefense Online Senior Editor Brendan Rivers writes in his article, Counter-MANPADS Systems Enter Flight Tests, the real issue with such systems is not technical, but economic:

Even after the systems have been flight-tested, though, there still remain several questions regarding the equipping of civilian aircraft with electronic countermeasures.

First and foremost, how much will all of this cost, and who is going to pay for it? The DHS is mandating that the cost of whichever system is selected must be under $1 million per unit by the 1,000th unit, a goal both companies say can be met relatively easily. In fact, [Northrop Grumman Business Development Manager Jack] Pledger claimed that the Guardian system is "well under" the $1-million mark. However, this would only be by the 1,000th system produced, and the cost of the initial systems could be higher.

In addition, the US fleet of civilian aircraft numbers around 6,800. What about the 5,800 aircraft left after equipping the first thousand with countermeasures systems? The Rand Corp., in a study released on Jan. 25, said outfitting the entire US fleet with such systems is currently not cost-effective. The Rand study estimated the cost of equipping the entire US civil aircraft fleet at $11.2 billion, $9.2 billion of which would go towards just the procurement and retrofitting of the countermeasures systems on the aircraft. But installation costs are only the beginning. Furthermore, after the systems are installed, there would still be the cost of operating and support them, which the Rand study estimated at $27 billion through FY23, with annual costs in the neighborhood of $2.1 billion - nearly 50% of what the federal government spends on all transportation security in the US.

Even though we're becoming inured to multi-billion-dollar programs, this is still an enormous amout of money. What are we getting for this money? Security? Perhaps. Certainly, one argument is that money spent defending civil airliners against shoulder-launched infrared guided missiles would pay for itself if just one attack were to be thwarted. The insurance costs, damage to the airline industry, and rippled effects through the economy could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. On the other hand, having allocated the resources to protecting civil aircraft against the shoulder-fired threat, might the enemy merely select another high-value target that is not so well protected, or use a different weapon against aircraft that countermeasures can't stop, such as rocket-propelled grenades and small arms? It is also worth noting that helicopters and other aircraft equipped with countermeasures are indeed shot down from time to time.

Well-endowed nations such as the US tend to have blind spots when it comes to "high-concept" attacks by their enemies. Such high-concept attacks can employ a great many resources, such as the Japanese carrier-borne raid on Pearl Harbor, or comparatively modest resources, such as al Qaeda's strike at the Twin Towers and Pentagon using hijacked aircraft. In both cases, originality of planning and audacity of execution are "force multipliers" that enable a weaker power to deliver a staggering blow against a stronger foe. In both cases, the US enacted a number of post-horse-departure measures for securing the barn.

In equipping civil airliners with countermeasures, the US may or may not be making a prudent investment in security. Regardless, we should not be so complacent as to believe that civil aircraft countermeasures bars the barn door with the horse safely ensconced. Like a fort, resources spent on defending individual aircraft are resources that cannot be applied to attacking the enemy. One thing that keeps the fort-builders in business is a belief that the enemy won't have the wherewithal to figure them out. Most of the time, this is probably even true. But every now and again an Alexander comes along with a concept of how to kick those defenses in the teeth.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Off the Wire, 8/29

Additional Navigation Systems for Raptor

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman (Woodland Hills, CA) has been awarded a contract from Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, TX) to supply up to 108 additional GPS/inertial-navigation systems (GINS) for the US Air Force's F/A-22 Raptor to fulfill the critical navigation functions of this advanced fighter aircraft. The GINS provides Raptor pilots with aircraft attitude, heading, velocity, and precise position.
The F/A-22 Raptor multirole air-dominance and strike system is the world's first stealthy military aircraft capable of simultaneously conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions amid large numbers of sophisticated airborne and ground-based threats. The Raptor's speed, maneuverability, and counter-air and precision-strike weapons allow it to fly both night and day in all weather.
The 53 GINS, and 50 to 55 options, will be delivered under lot 5 and lot 6 of the approximately $9-million contract over the next two years. Assembly and testing of the inertial-navigation systems will take place in Northrop Grumman's Salt Lake City, UT, facility.
The GINS, part of Northrop Grumman's LN-100 inertial-navigation-system product line, is ideal for meeting requirements for low noise outputs and high-accuracy pointing. The LN-100G uses standard embedded GPS modules and supports current GPS mandates. LN-100 technology has been applied to aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, launch vehicles, missiles, fighters, helicopters and unmanned underwater vehicles. The LN-100G – used on both US and international military aircraft, including the F/A-18 and EA-6B – has been selected by more than 70 customers worldwide.

For more on the F/A-22 program, see Raptor: Right or Wrong?

SDB Completes Developmental Testing

Source: Boeing

Four Boeing (St. Louis, MO) Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) were released on Aug. 25 from two separate carriages on a US Air Force F-15E, testing the full capabilities of the SDB guided-weapon system.
The test at Eglin AFB, FL, was conducted at an altitude of 15,000 feet, approximately 20 nautical miles from four separate targets. After receiving target coordinates, the F-15E crew released the four bombs from two separate BRU-61 carriages. Three of the bombs targeted military trucks on the ground, while the fourth targeted a 40-ft. wall of shipping containers, and each SDB hit its intended target. In addition to accuracy, the test was designed to further demonstrate the optimal trajectory to the target and the terminal-dive angle, heading, and velocity of the weapons.
With the final planned free-flight test in the development test program behind it, the SDB team is scheduled to begin operational testing this fall.
The all-weather SDB weapon system includes four bombs and is compatible with every US fighter and bomber aircraft. It has a standoff range of 60 nautical miles. At 71-in. long, this 250-lb. weapon quadruples the number of weapons on each aircraft can carry. The system will first be deployed on the F-15E Strike Eagle in 2006.

For more on the SDB program, see USAF Tests Small Diameter Bomb.

New Remote-Controlled Weapon Station Passes Field Tests

Source: Rafael

The Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) 30mm, produced by Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd. has recently completed a series of successful field tests in Finland and in Israel. Both series were carried out on actual fighting platforms – in Finland on the Patria AMV and in Israel on the Achzarit APC – and covered different combat scenarios at a variety of ranges.
The RCWS-30 was developed for use on any modern, light-armored, high-mobility fighting vehicle (either new or upgraded). Its design provides light weight, low silhouette in its folded-down position (compatible with a C-130 or A400 transport aircraft), generous elevation range (–20° to +60°) in its extended position, unlimited traverse range (±n×360°), and minimal occupation of a vehicle's internal volume. The RCWS-30's remote-control capability enables the gunner to assume a safe position anywhere inside the armored vehicle (and allows an optional take-over by the commander) for the designation of targets and operation of weapons.
The 30mm station is a member of Rafael's RCWS family, which also includes the Enforcer (7.62mm) and the 12.7mm weapon stations. The RCWS-30 is also part of a new company-wide approach that provides its customers with a complete upgrade package for combat vehicles that also includes the Trophy active protection system, reactive or passive armor, the Small Arms Fire Detection System (SADS), and Spike multipurpose missiles (or any other anti-tank guided weapon). The weapon station has been designed for complete integration with existing battle-management systems.

For more on remotely controlled weapon stations, see CROWS Deploying to Iraq.

US Navy Wants Persistent Global Surveillance

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman (Bethpage, NY) has won one of several contracts from the US Navy to study and recommend solutions to the service's requirement for an around-the-clock, worldwide maritime surveillance capability.
The study contract, named Persistent Unmanned Maritime Airborne Surveillance (PUMAS), is worth approximately $1 million for an initial five-month effort, after which the Navy will downselect its contractors to continue the study for another seven months. Total value of the two efforts could approach $4 million.
"This is a much broader, much deeper study than the name PUMAS implies," said Joseph Garone, director and integrated-product-team leader for advanced-concepts development in the company's Integrated Systems sector. "The Navy's mission is to know what's transpiring on the seas worldwide, around the clock and in real time. Unmanned systems will be a major factor in the equation because of their inherent benefits.
"We must determine how those diverse assets that will make up the Navy force structure in about eight years can be integrated into a net-enabled, family-of-systems environment," Garone continued. "Those assets include manned as well as unmanned vehicles, both air-breathing and space-based, some that are in development today and others that the Navy now operates and will be in service then."

For more on maritime surveillance priorities, see Standing Watch.

Transformation of US Forces in Korea Detailed

Source: US Army

Military transformation on the Korean Peninsula is not just a US program. The South Koreans are also very involved, the top military commander of combined forces in Seoul said. Initiatives have allowed military forces to increase capabilities even as numbers decrease, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte said during an interview.
Driving the combined forces command transformation is the need to confront the threats of the future and not the world of the 1950s and 1960s, LaPorte said. The program is based on enhancing, shaping, and aligning the force. In the past three years, American and Korean officials have identified more than 300 enhancements to weapon systems, weapon platforms, intelligence platforms, and command-and-control systems, LaPorte said.
The Republic of Korea has bought fully into the military changes. Koreans will assume responsibility for two thirds of the improvements. These enhancements signal one large change in the military relationship: tremendous improvements in the 645,000-man South Korean military, LaPorte said.
Efforts to shape the combined force continue. "The Koreans are changing their force composition, and they are making adjustments to their organizational structures, and so are we," LaPorte said.
The US will reduce its forces in Korea from 37,500 to 25,000 by 2008. "That is in total agreement with the Republic of Korea," LaPorte said. "They're developing a plan to reduce their forces by (40,000) to 50,000 in the same timeframe."
North Korea continues to threaten the peace in Northwest Asia. Yet the alliance continues to defend against such a threat even while reducing numbers. "You can do that because we're getting tremendous returns on investment from the capital investments we made in enhancements," LaPorte said.
Both US and South Korean forces use precision-guided munitions and capable intelligence platforms, and overall the nations have better weapon systems and better communications than North Korea. "So we're able to not only accomplish our current mission but increase our capabilities," LaPorte said. "At the same time, [we are] reducing the number of personnel it takes to do this."
LaPorte stressed that reductions in US personnel do not mean the US is lessening its commitment to the Republic of Korea. "The Koreans fully understand that," he said. They also understand that, between 2003 and 2006, the US appropriated $11 billion directly related to the security of South Korea. This includes forces on the peninsula and regional forces based in Japan, Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Reinforcement is a large part of the US strategy on the Korean peninsula. "We have increased our pre-positioned sets of equipment, so we can easily bring forces from the region or from the continental United States," LaPorte said. "It is very easy for us to bring back additional combat forces [if needed]."
The US is also transferring missions to South Korean forces, which further helps reshape the forces in Korea. "Perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, [these missions] required US military assistance. Today they don't," LaPorte said.
Examples of the missions transferred include providing security for the truce village of Panmunjom, the counterfire mission that has moved from the US 2nd Infantry Division to Korea's 3rd Army, and weather forecasting.
"There were 10 missions that we agreed to," LaPorte said. "So by allowing the Republic of Korea military to do these missions, it allows us to reduce the number of personnel that we have full-time on the peninsula."

For more on US reorganization in Korea, see US Army to Reorganize Helos in Korea; US, Korea Demo Common Logistical Picture; and US, South Korea Agree on Troop Redeployment.

Near-IR Reflectors for US Army Combat ID

Source: TVI Corp.

TVI Corp. (Glenn Dale, MD) announced it has been awarded a five-year blanket purchase agreement to provide the US Army with near-infrared (IR) reflective materials for combat identification of soldiers on the battlefield.
The company's near-infrared reflective material will be sewn directly into the U.S. military's new Army combat uniforms (ACUs) with the aim of minimizing "friendly-fire" incidents. The material being supplied by TVI includes an American flag emblem that is an infrared feedback signal and separate infrared squares sewn into the shoulders of the uniform to identify troops at night. These elements reflect infrared signals to communicate with equipment carried by friendly forces.
The ACUs are currently in production and are expected to be available to the entire Army by 2007.

For more on US combat ID, see State the Password.

Avionics Testers Ordered for JSF

Source: ViaSat

ViaSat, Inc. (Carlsbad, CA), has won a $19.8-million award from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics (Ft. Worth, TX) to supply a Communication Navigation and Identification Function Stimulator (CFS) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The contract period of performance is 30 months. Lockheed Martin will add the new ViaSat system to its mission-system-integration lab in Ft. Worth, TX, where avionics-system integration is proceeding in preparation for the first flight of the F-35.
Radio-frequency (RF) stimulators produce a variety of simultaneous signals that simulate a communications environment for testing communication, navigation, identification, and weapon-system devices. Even after each individual subsystem is tested, the interaction of all equipment on board the aircraft can create additional problems in avionics systems as they select and process the desired signals. Measuring total system performance is possible only in the presence of complex time-varying RF stimulation that tests not only the equipment but also the operational procedures to respond to various tactical situations as well.
The F-35 is a next-generation, supersonic, multirole aircraft designed to replace the AV-8B Harrier, A-10, F-16, F/A-18 Hornet, and the UK’s Harrier GR.7 and Sea Harrier. Three versions of the F-35, each derived from a common design, will ensure that the F-35 meets the performance needs of the US Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy; the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy; and allied defense forces worldwide.

For more on the JSF program, see JSF International.

Galileo Payload Testing Underway

Source: European Space Agency

Testing of the first Galileo satellites, which form part of what is called the Galileo System Test Bed (GSTB), is underway. One of the two satellites arrived at the ESA-ESTEC test facilities in late July, while the payload of the other spacecraft is now being tested in Italy.
The payload of the GTSB-V2/B satellite, being developed by Galileo Industries, is just completing a first series of tests at the Alenia Spazio facilities in Rome. In particular, the specially developed navigation payload has been subjected to a range of extreme temperatures in a vacuum. This simulation of the space environment realistically validates the payload's performance in orbit.
The campaign will continue with mechanical testing. The payload's functionality will have to be proven while exposed to strong vibration, high acoustic-noise levels, and shock, as encountered during launch. Whereas the mechanical investigations can be considered standard satellite testing, the first validation in the thermal vacuum environment had been awaited with special interest, as it has given early feedback on the in-orbit performance of the newly developed payload.
The GSTB-V2/B satellite features several new technologies that are considered cornerstones in the development of the Galileo navigation payload. One of the most prominent and also most critical developments is the Passive Hydrogen Maser (PHM), an extremely accurate clock that has been developed under a European Space Agency (ESA) contract. The PHM will be the first of its kind to be flown in space and have its performance tested in a realistic environment. The GSTB-V2/B PHM will be the most accurate atomic clock in orbit and will open the door for a wide range of high-precision navigation applications as targeted by the Galileo System. The higher timekeeping accuracy will enable better performance than current global navigation satellite systems.
The results obtained during the first testing in a simulated space environment are very promising and constitute a major milestone in the validation of technology specifically developed for the Galileo System. The tests included simultaneous transmission on three Galileo carrier frequencies (L1, E5, and E6 bands) where, besides the PHM, two rubidium atomic clocks can be selected in combination with the onboard signal-generation unit to produce representative Galileo signals.
The recent data and experience gained with the GSTB-V2/B test campaign are being directly transferred into the development of the Galileo System since Galileo Industries is also the prime contractor to the ESA for the development and roll-out of the Galileo infrastructure.
The completed GSTB-V2/B satellite will weigh 485 kg. Its modular design consists of two cubes, one dedicated to the payload and the other, known as the platform module, to the spacecraft's control and operations subsystems. The overall external dimensions (excluding the deployable solar arrays) will be 1?1?2.4 m. The solar arrays will generate about 940 W of power. The spacecraft is designed for a lifetime of three years in the Galileo orbit (24,000 km). The other Galileo satellite, GSTB-V2/A, is being developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of the UK. The spacecraft test campaign is continuing in the ESA ESTEC Test Center, where thermal balance and vacuum testing have been completed.

For more on the Galileo program, see EU's Rival to GPS Enters Next Stage.

Hungarian L-39 Upgrades Completed

Source: Aero Vodochody

Aero Vodochody (Odolena Voda, Czech Republic) handed the last of eight L-39ZOs aircraft with an extended service life to the Hungarian Air Force (HuAF) on Aug. 25.
Under the service-life extension, the aircraft underwent large-scale checks of the airframe, as well as its systems.
AERO Vodochody, as an original L-39 producer, offers service-life extension programs, which were developed on the basis of service experience with the L-39 aircraft in a large number of countries, as well as experience with unique L-39 airframe testing.
Other companies apart from Aero Vodochody also participated on the service-life-extension program, including Air Workshop Base (Kecskemet, Hungary).

For more on Hungarian air force modernization, see First Hungarian Gripen Takes to the Air.

USMC Details Training for SIGINT Platoons

Source: US Marine Corps

To US Marines, certain tools of the trade are necessary to ensure victory: the rifles, bombs and knives of combat; the wrenches and hammers of fixing and building; the shovels and barbed wire of entrenchment and defense. The usefulness of these tools and the ability of Marines to employ them in defeat of an enemy or accomplishment of an objective is amplified greatly by another tool: intelligence. Knowing where the enemy is and what he is doing allows the infantryman, mechanic and engineer to craft a strategy specific to the precise picture on the ground.
Gathering this intelligence usually falls to highly specialized units of reconnaissance Marines. The “recon” community is small and tightly knit. Parallel to this community, however, there is a smaller group of Marines who gather a specific brand of information called signals intelligence (SIGINT). This mission falls to the leathernecks of radio-reconnaissance platoons. One such platoon is with 2nd Radio Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), at Camp Lejeune, NC.
Radio-reconnaissance platoons (RRPs) are units organic to radio battalions. They draw Marines from the SIGINT and linguist military occupational specialties, said 26-year-old Sgt. Jason D. Martinez, RRP platoon sergeant, 2nd Radio Battalion, II MEF. “We’re basically signals-intelligence Marines with recon training,” said Martinez. A RRP serves as the eyes of the commander on the battlefield, said Martinez, gathering SIGINT to paint a picture of where the enemy is, what he is doing, and how he is communicating. “The mission is to basically provide a radio battalion asset where it’s not feasible for the entire battalion to go forward. We send in a six-man team that is capable of producing a view of the battlefield for the commander,” he said.
Not just anyone from the battalion can walk into a RRP. Radio recon holds an intensive indoctrination for its Marines, described by Martinez as more involved than the one held by battalion or force reconnaissance units. The reasoning for the difficult indoctrination is to prepare the RRP Marines for the physical demands of serving and training with other recon units from around the US Marine Corps (USMC), said Martinez. This includes several highly coveted schools as part of the RRP-training pipeline. “We go through the amphibious reconnaissance school, jump and [Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape] school. From there, they’ll go into more mission-specific stuff, to become analysts or better qualified with language skills,” he said.
The indoctrination consists of five main events. On the first day of the indoctrination is physical-fitness training. The candidate must achieve a first-class PFT. From the PFT course, the candidates go directly to the pool, for a 500-m swim in full camouflage utility uniform, a 25-m underwater swim and retrieving and towing a 10-lb. brick to simulate a rifle with full magazine. The next day, Marines do a “boots-and-utes” run – running in camouflage trousers and boots – to the obstacle course, which they must complete two times back-to-back in under six minutes. After a break, they do another boots-and-utes run, this time six miles, with mock rifles. Directly from there is a strenuous 30-km land-navigation course. For the duration of the course, which can last up to three days, candidates will have on their back an 80-lb. rucksack and a mock rifle. This course is an individual effort on the part of the Marine, who is sent out into the woods for the duration of the land-navigation course alone, with only a two-way radio for use in an emergency.
“It’s a big judge of their character when they’re out there on their own,” said Sgt. Edward A. Tague, RRP operator, 2nd Radio Battalion, II MEF. “They’ll sit down to take a break and all kinds of crazy thoughts start running through their heads. It’s then [that] they decide if they’re going to finish.”
Of the class of 13 Marines that began the indoctrination regimen used in this story, only three remained one day into the land-navigation course. All three were thoroughly exhausted from the days of physical effort exerted in completing the previous events. One of those Marines, Cpl. Joshua N. Trigg, RRP candidate, reflected on the past four days’ events. “Basically, everything wears you down before this,” said Trigg. “Eighty pounds, lots of miles -- it’s rough. The last mile is miles away.”

For more on US Marine modernization, see 'Small Wars' the Norm for USMC.