Archive for the ‘military’ Category

The U.S. Army’s $200 Billion Makeover

December 7, 2007

A $200 billion plan to remake the largest war machine in history unfolds in one small way on a quiet country road in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Jack Hensley, one of a legion of contractors on the project, is hunkered in a slowly moving SUV, serving as target practice for a baby-faced soldier in a Humvee aiming a laser about 700 yards away. A moment later, another soldier in the Humvee punches commands into a computer transmitting data across an expanse of sand and mesquite to a site 2 1/2 miles away. On an actual battlefield, this is when a precision attack missile would be launched, killing Hensley almost instantly.

For soldiers in an experimental Army brigade at the sprawling Fort Bliss base, it’s the first day of field training on a new weapon called the Non-Line of Sight Launch System, or NLOS-LS, a box of rockets that can automatically change direction in midair and hit a moving target about 24 miles away.  The Army says it has never had a weapon like it. “It’s not the Spartans with the swords anymore,” said Emmett Schaill, the brigade commander, peering into the desert-scape.

In the Army’s vision, the war of the future is increasingly combat by mouse clicks. It’s as networked as the Internet, as mobile as a cellphone, as intuitive as a video game.

Source:  Washington Post

The autonomous warbird

November 27, 2007

It was considered a stunning turn in warfare when a remotely controlled aircraft on a reconnaissance flight over Afghanistan spotted a Taliban convoy and fired a jury-rigged Hellfire missile, striking and destroying the target.

The headline-grabbing flight in late 2001 — though rudimentary and under remote human control — marked the first search-and-destroy mission by a flying drone, and it propelled robotic warfare from the pages of science fiction to the battlefield.

Now, behind a barb-wired fence and double security doors in Palmdale, Northrop Grumman Corp. engineers are building what could become the ultimate flying robot: a jet fighter controlled by a computer. It would take off from an aircraft carrier, drop a bomb on an enemy target and then land back on the carrier, all autonomously.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

New hypersonic vehicle could be Aurora

November 12, 2007

An artist's rendering of the Falcon vehicle, which is expected to be capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload.

The Washington Post has done a great investigative-reporting job on how the Pentagon wants funding for a next generation “hypersonic cruise vehicle.” 

They found the $100 million appropriation tucked in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

A new program, dubbed Falcon, centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a “a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours.”

The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth. 

Many of us are left wondering, though.  Has the Aurora Project morphed into Falcon?

A mysterious triangle-shaped vehicle has been seen and heard in the western U.S. since the ’90s, and many have speculated that Aurora is a hypersonic vehicle being tested out of Groom Lake.  The vehicle, with concept photo at right, was even mentioned in a 1985 Pentagon budget.

If Aurora is Falcon, then we may actually get a legitimate look at the plane fairly soon. 

Also, no word yet if Elon Musk will sue the Pentagon for copyright infringement.

Robot Boats Hunt High-Tech Pirates

November 1, 2007

Robots versus pirates—it’s not as stupid, or unlikely, as it sounds. Piracy has exploded in the waters near Somalia, where this past week United States warships have fired on two pirate skiffs, and are currently in pursuit of a hijacked Japanese-owned vessel.

At least four other ships in the region remain under pirate control, and the problem appears to be going global: The International Maritime Bureau is tracking a 14-percent increase in worldwide pirate attacks this year.

For years now, law enforcement agencies across the high seas have proposed robotic boats, or unmanned surface vessels (USVs), as a way to help deal with 21st-Century techno Black Beards. The Navy has tested at least two small, armed USV demonstrators designed to patrol harbors and defend vessels.

And both the Navy and the Coast Guard have expressed interest in the Protector, a 30-ft.-long USV built by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Israeli defense firm RAFAEL.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

Futuristic vessel sighted in South Carolina

September 22, 2007

Main Image

Last Sunday, it appeared on the Beaufort River. A boat. A weird one. It was oddly long, sleek and ominous, motoring south.

Jack Howison was enjoying his powerboat with his girlfriend when the boat rumbled by in sharp contrast to the pleasant-looking watercraft typically floating down the river.

The size of the thing alarmed him. It was low to the water, and from the front it didn’t appear to be a large boat. But when he saw it from the side, it was a whopping 70 feet.Image

Howison saw SEALION II, a high-speed transport designed by the Navy and completed in January, said Gordon Hatchell, a branch supervisor with the Navy’s Combatant Craft Department in Norfolk, Va. Hatchell was on the team that designed the SEALION II.

Source:  Beaufort Gazette

U.S. drone makes ‘aviation history’ with bomb run

September 9, 2007

Saying it was “a first in army aviation history,” a U.S. military drone has dropped a bomb that killed two suspected roadside bombers in northern Iraq.

On seeing two enemy fighters a week ago in the Qayyrah area of Nineveh province, troops requested aerial backup and a Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle was sent, it said in a statement.

“Pilots guided the Hunter operator to the scene where it set up for a strike mission and dropped its precision munition, killing both unknown enemies,” the military said.

The commander of Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Company, Captain Raymond Fields, said the successful mission would set the “tone for army aviation in years to come.”

“We will see more weaponised army unmanned vehicles being used … to save not only our aviator brethren but our army ground brethren from enemy contact.”

Source:  Manchester.com

New X-Plane Flies at Calif. Air Base

July 27, 2007

An X-48B Blended Wing Body jet successfully flew for the first time in a program that could lead to more fuel-efficient, quieter and higher- capacity aircraft, NASA said Thursday.

The remotely controlled, 500-pound, three-engine jet with a 21-foot wingspan took off July 20, climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet and landed about a half-hour later, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center said.

It was controlled by a pilot at a ground station. NASA and Boeing said data from the flight is already being compared with data from wind tunnel tests.

The aircraft and a duplicate were designed by Boeing Co.’s Phantom Works in cooperation with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. in Bedford, England, they are 8.5 percent-scale versions of a future full-size design.

The X-48B resembles a flying wing, but the wing blends into a wide, flat and tailless fuselage, NASA and Boeing said.

Source:  Associated Press

U.S. Army Speeds production of FCS Robot

June 11, 2007

The Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program managers are accelerating development of a backpackable next-generation version of the PackBot called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV).

Being developed in partnership with Boeing, the SUGV was to have been fielded in 2010 or 2012, but now is slated to deploy next year.

“The SUGV is being developed with the same basic digital architecture that is in the PackBot, so we expect to add all of the different mission capabilities,” said Bob Bell, director of iRobot’s FCS program. “It has high-performance visible and infrared cameras. It won’t have the EOD’s [Explosive Ordnance Disposal’s] 7-foot arm; it will have an 18- to 20-inch arm. It will be able to look at and pull the cover off an IED, but it won’t be able to carry it away.”

The Army used a prototype SUGV in a February FCS experiment at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Source:  Defense News

Unmanned jet could land on carrier within 2 years

June 4, 2007

Researchers are analyzing data from the first “hands-off” live-fly operations around an aircraft carrier–information that could lead to a specially modified F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on a ship without a pilot touching the controls in as little as two years.

A pair of Boeing test pilots just completed a series of unannounced landing approaches and waveoffs with the USS Harry S. Truman operating near Norfolk, Va., on May 17-18. They closed to within 420 ft. of the carrier before conducting a ship-controlled waveoff.

The test aircraft–the first two-seat F/A-18F built–has been reconfigured as a surrogate unmanned combat air system (UCAS). The project parallels the company’s effort to design a demonstrator for the Navy’s UCAS-D competition. However, company officials contend the demonstration wasn’t designed specifically for the competition or for Boeing’s new X-45N design.

Source:  Aviation Week

U.S. military wants new UAV to stay airborne for five years

May 23, 2007

Persistent surveillance is becoming a pressing requirement for US forces, spawning a number of programmes aimed at demonstrating unmanned air vehicles with endurance capabilities ranging from weeks to years.

The latest of these is the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) VULTURE programme to demonstrate the ability to keep a heavier-than-air UAV on station for more than five years.

VULTURE – which stands for Very-high altitude, Ultra-endurance, Loitering Theatre Unmanned Reconnaissance Element – is a complement to DARPA’s ISIS (Integrate Sensor Is Structure) program to demonstrate technology for an unmanned airship capable of remaining on station in the stratosphere for a year or more.

DARPA has invited proposals for the VULTURE program and plans an industry day on 7 June. The agency is looking for the capability to “deliver and maintain a 1,000lb, 5kW airborne payload for an uninterrupted period exceeding five years with a 99%+ on-station reliability”.

Source:  Flightglobal