Space Command

According to Voice of America News, the United States military is launching next week its first new combatant command in more than a decade.

U.S. Space Command Launching Next Week

Vice President Mike Pence and Pentagon officials told the National Space Council Tuesday the U.S. Space Command will officially be up and running August 29.

The U.S. military has created a command since the U.S. Cyber Command was established in 2009. The Defense Department currently has 10 combatant commands, and each have either a geographic or functional mission for military operations.

Air Force General John Raymond has been confirmed by the Senate as the command’s first leader.

Creation of the command is seen by some officials as a likely step toward the creation of a space force as a separate military entity.

«The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense for the vast reaches of outer space», Pence said.

Pence said the future Space Force still needs congressional funding and authority, but he said he expects that to happen soon.

The launch of the Space Command will accelerate what has been a decades-long effort to reorganize and improve the military’s technological capabilities in space, which at times have gotten less attention as the Air Force has focused on warplanes and other combat priorities.

The military’s role in space has been under scrutiny because the U.S. increasingly is reliant on orbiting satellites that are difficult to protect. Satellites provide communications, navigation, intelligence and other services vital to the military and the national economy.

Over the past year, the issue gained urgency amid growing competition and threats from adversary nations.

The U.S. military previously had a Space Command, but it was dissolved in 2002, and its functions were turned over to a reorganized U.S. Strategic Command. That command’s primary mission remains deterrence against global threats, including maintaining the U.S. military’s nuclear arsenal.

Protection System

Elbit Systems announces that following a competitive bid, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) selected Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IFLD), the Company’s Active Protection System (APS), for the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Eitan new eight-wheeled Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) and the D-9 Bulldozer. The award of the contract for the program is subject to completion of negotiations between the parties.

The Israeli defense ministry has selected Elbit’s IFLD to protect its Eitan 8×8 armored vehicles against close-range attacks in both open terrain and urban environments (Elbit photo)

The selection of the IFLD for the IDF’s Eitan AFV comes on the heels of the decision by the U.S. Army to proceed with the IFLD for the Bradley AFV.

IFLD uses independent optical sensors, tracking radar, launchers and countermeasure munitions to defeat threats at a safe distance from the defended combat vehicles. The system provides 360-degree protection coverage for close-range scenarios in both open terrain and urban environments. Its low size and weight, versatile high-performance, negligible residual penetration and ease of integration position IFLD as an optimal active protection solution for any fighting vehicle.

Yehuda (Udi) Vered, General Manager of Elbit Systems Land Division, said: «We are proud to have been selected by the IMOD to provide the IDF with such an important operational capability. The decision of the IMOD to prefer IFLD adds to the growing interest in this APS by many modern armed forces who seek to enhance protection capabilities for their AFVs».

Iron Fist series of APS delivers high-performance protection against anti-tank threats while increasing the survivability of the platform or vehicle. The series includes a light configuration for AFV, IFV and logistic

System-level tests

Raytheon Company and the U.S. Navy completed the first system-level tests of SPY-6(V)2, the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), at the Surface Combat System Center at Wallops Island, VA. In the first test the radar searched for, detected, identified and tracked numerous targets – including commercial aircraft. In a second exercise, the maturity of EASR integration enabled the radar to track multiple targets continuously for several hours during a test event involving another system.

Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar successfully tracks first targets at Wallops Island Test Facility

EASR, the newest sensor in the Navy’s SPY-6 family of radars, provides simultaneous anti-air and anti-surface warfare, electronic protection and air traffic control for aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships.

«Moving quickly from radar installation at Wallops Island to ‘tracks on glass’ in less than three months is a major accomplishment», said U.S. Navy Captain Jason Hall, Program Manager for Above Water Sensors, Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems. «The EASR program is progressing extremely well. We are now one step closer to production and delivering the radar’s unmatched capability to the surface fleet».

Two variants of EASR are being built: a single-face rotating array designated AN/SPY-6(V)2 for amphibious assault ships and Nimitz class carriers, and a three fixed-face array designated AN/SPY-6(V)3 for Ford class aircraft carriers and the future FFG(X) guided missile frigates.

Both versions of EASR are built on scalable Radar Modular Assembly, or RMA, technology as well as a software baseline that has been matured through development and test successes of AN/SPY-6(V)1, the U.S. Navy’s program of record for the DDG-51 Flight III destroyers. Each RMA is a self-contained radar in a 2′ × 2′ × 2′ box. These individual radars can integrate together to form arrays of various sizes to address any mission on any ship. EASR also adds air traffic control and weather capabilities to the mature SPY-6 software baseline.

Upon completion of system-level testing in Q4 2019, EASR will shift from the engineering and manufacturing development phase to the production phase. The 1st delivery of AN/SPY-6(V)2 will be to USS Bougainville (LHA-8), the America Class Amphibious Assault Ship.

Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar

Small Diameter Bombs

Bombing capacity of F-35As has quadrupled with the arrival of small diameter bombs introduced to No. 3 Squadron in June.

Flying Officer Matthew Walker, left, delivers bomb familiarisation training to armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron, from left, Corporal Christopher Sorrensen, Leading Aircraftman Adam Fulmizi and Corporal Simon McMillan (Photo: Sergeant Guy Young)

The GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb, Increment 1 (SDB1), packs about 16 kg/35.3 lbs. of modern high explosive, guided by GPS-aided inertial navigation.

Wing Commander Simon Bird, Chief Engineer at Aerospace Explosive Ordnance Systems Program Office (AEOSPO) – Explosive Materiel Branch, said it was Air Force’s most advanced bomb and made best use of the F-35A’s internal weapon bay.

«We’ve got a next-generation bomb to go with our fifth-generation fighter», Wing Commander Bird said. «Where you used to carry one Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in a position on the aircraft, SDB1 allows you to carry four bombs that each achieve very similar effects. Although at 285 lbs. the SDB1 is lighter than a 500 lbs. JDAM, it’s highly accurate and packs a more powerful, modern explosive. SDB1 is also designed to penetrate harder targets, or can fuse above ground to create area effects».

The bombs make use of «Diamondback» wings, which deploy after release to provide greater stand-off range.

«With JDAMs you’ve got to be very close to the target to engage it, but because of the wings on SDB1, a single F-35A can engage up to eight separate targets from outside the range they can defend against», Wing Commander Bird said. «What’s more, because an SDB1 is carried internally, the F-35A can remain low observable and will not be affected by any extra drag from carrying eight bombs».

Four bombs are fitted to new bomb release unit racks before loading on the aircraft.

«With an old JDAM, you had to take all the components and build it up, but that takes time, equipment and people», Wing Commander Bird said. «You can test the SDB1 without opening the box; you can test them before they’re even shipped to the base you’re going to operate from. This weapon comes fully assembled; you basically take it out of the box and load it».

About 15 armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron received familiarisation training on the bombs before planned test firings in coming months.

AEOSPO’s engineering, logistic and technical staff ensured introduction of the weapons and their delivery was a milestone towards the F-35A’s initial operational capability in 2020.

ROBOpilot

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and DZYNE Technologies Incorporated successfully completed a two-hour initial flight of a revolutionary Robotic Pilot Unmanned Conversion Program called ROBOpilot August 9 at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Air Force Research Laboratory successfully conducts first flight of ROBOpilot Unmanned Air Platform

«This flight test is a testament to AFRL’s ability to rapidly innovate technology from concept to application in a safe build up approach while still maintaining low cost and short timelines», said Major General William Cooley, AFRL Commander.

«Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration», said Doctor Alok Das, Senior Scientist with AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation (CRI). «All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft».

As the vision for AFRL’s CRI Small Business Innovative Research project with DZYNE Technologies of Irvine, California, ROBOpilot interacts with an aircraft the same way as a human pilot would.

For example, the system «grabs» the yoke, pushes on the rudders and brakes, controls the throttle, flips the appropriate switches and reads the dashboard gauges the same way a pilot does. At the same time, the system uses sensors, like GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit, for situational awareness and information gathering. A computer analyzes these details to make decisions on how to best control the flight.

ROBOpilot also boasts a simple installation process. Users remove the pilot’s seat and install a frame in its place, which contains all the equipment necessary to control the aircraft including actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm.

Das explains that this non-invasive approach to robotically piloted aircraft leverages existing commercial technology and components. ROBOpilot incorporates many subsystems and lessons learned from previous AFRL and DZYNE Technology aircraft conversion programs.

«ROBOpilot offers the benefits of unmanned operations without the complexity and upfront cost associated with the development of new unmanned vehicles», Das said.

AFRL developed the system using a Direct to Phase II SBIR contract. During the past year, AFRL and DZYNE designed, built and tested ROBOpilot. Engineers demonstrated the initial concept in a RedBird FMX simulator, a full motion, feature-rich advanced aviation training device. ROBOpilot successfully completed simulated autonomous takeoffs, mission navigation and landings in both nominal and off-nominal conditions in this Federal Aviation Administration-certified trainer.

As an early adopter of creating disruptive innovation through paradigm shifts, AFRL established the Center for Rapid Innovation in 2006 to streamline AFRL’s application of new and existing technologies to address dynamic changes in air, space, ground, and cyber battlespaces and solve evolving and urgent operational challenges. The execution of this unique process uses diverse subject matter expertise and a collaborative government-industry technical and management capability to rapidly develop, test and deploy innovative prototype solutions for dynamic operational environments.

CRI routinely uses the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to identify both disruptive technology and innovative engineering talent for its projects. Working with teams of innovative small businesses, CRI has demonstrated numerous operational successes such as back-packable, precision strike platforms for high-value fleeting targets; counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED); counter drone capabilities; and secure on-the-move communications. Several efforts have even transitioned to Air Force Programs of Record.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

60-mm mortar

The RSG60 features innovative design and engineering characteristics which make this indirect fire system very light and easy to handle. A few quick manual adjustments turn the 34.8 lbs./15.8 kg standard infantry version into a commando mortar weighing just 15 lbs./6.8 kg, with no need for tools. This makes the RSG60 a two-in-one solution.

RSG60 – significant weight saving for transport

Depending on the ammunition and charges, the standard version can attain ranges of up 10,499 feet/3,200 metres. Equipped with a thirty 11.8-inch-longer/30 centimetre-longer barrel, the range increases by around 1640 feet/500 metres. The commando variant of the RSG60 has a range of around 6,562 feet/2,000 metres.

About 27.6 inches/70 centimetres long, the barrel is made of steel with a carbon fibre over-wrap. This assures the necessary stability at the same time as lower weight, resulting in a barrel that weighs around 30 percent less than a conventional steel mortar. The base plate is made of carbon fibre composite material. The novel design of this indirect fire weapon not only saves space, it can be set up and ready to fire in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, by loosening the retaining bolts, it is possible to separate the RSG60 from the base plate in around thirty seconds, transforming it into lighter-weight commando mortar.

Development of the new mortar began in October 2017 at Rheinmetall Waffe Munition. Rheinmetall’s objective was to augment the Group’s versatile family of 60-mm ammunition and existing Rheinmetall Electronics fire control technology with a matching, future-oriented weapon system. Right from the start, development work therefore focused on low weight, speed and ergonomics.

The RSG60 has repeatedly undergone successful test firing.

Naval Radar

The sensor solutions provider HENSOLDT will equip the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel «Svalbard» with the latest version of its TRS-3D naval radar and MSSR 2000 I IFF System. This is already the second upgrade contract from the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency as HENSOLDT is already under contract to equip the three new Arctic Coast Guard Vessels in the P6615 Program with the upgraded radar and IFF system.

The Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel «Svalbard» will be equipped with the latest version of our TRS-3D naval radar and MSSR 2000 I IFF System (Copyright: NDMA Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency)

Under both contracts worth more than € 27 m HENSOLDT will deliver four TRS-3D radars including the latest solid-state technology and signal processing software and will deliver them from 2021, in parallel to the building program of the new Arctic Coast Guard vessels. The TRS-3D includes a secondary radar MSSR 2000 I for Identification-Friend-or-Foe (IFF). It operates all current IFF modes, including the latest «Mode S/Mode 5 Level ½» standard answering the most recent NATO requirements.

«Our TRS-3D naval radar is an extremely reliable radar, particularly suited for littoral missions», said HENSOLDT-CEO Thomas Müller. «We are taking the upgrade contract of the Norwegian Coast Guard as proof of the customer’s satisfaction with our product and services».

TRS-3D is a three-dimensional multimode naval radar for air and sea surveillance. It includes the ability to correlate plots and tracks of targets with the MSSR 2000 I identification system for automatic identification of vessels and aircraft which is essential to avoid friendly fire and to establish a comprehensive situation picture. It is used for automatically locating and tracking all types of air and sea targets and safe guidance of on-board helicopters. Thanks to its signal processing technologies, the TRS-3D is particularly suited for the early detection of low flying or slow-moving objects under extreme environmental conditions.

More than 50 units of the radar are in operation with naval forces around the world. Among the ships equipped are frigates and corvettes of the German Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutters and the «Squadron 2000» patrol boats of the Finnish Navy.

Machine learning

BAE Systems has been awarded a Phase 2 contract to develop machine learning capabilities aimed to help the military gain better awareness of space scenarios for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal of DARPA’s Hallmark Tools, Capabilities, and Evaluation Methodology (Hallmark-TCEM) program is to not only develop and evaluate tools and capabilities that increase an operator’s understanding of space events, but also enhance the ability to select effective courses of action for any given situation.

Machine learning capabilities aimed to help the military gain better awareness of space scenarios

Space assets such as satellites are becoming increasingly important and relied upon by the Department of Defense for communications, surveillance, and security. As part of Hallmark-TCEM, BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development team will build cognitive-based machine learning algorithms and data models aimed to give space operators the ability to identify abnormal activities and predict possible threats. The team will build on Phase 1 work of the program, and continue to leverage the decade-long development of the company’s Multi-INT Analytics for Pattern Learning and Exploitation (MAPLE) technology with a solution called MAPLE Automates Joint Indications and Warnings for Cognitive Counter-Space (MAJICS).

«Our technology builds data models based on normal activity and then ingests large amounts of real-time, streaming data to compare against the normal model and determine if any abnormal activity is occurring or will occur», said Doctor John Hogan, product line director of the Sensor Processing and Exploitation group at BAE Systems. «By using this technology, we hope to reduce the operator’s workload by providing a solution that will automatically predict space events such as launches or satellite movements based on millions of pieces of data, helping them make rapid decisions to avoid any potential threats».

BAE Systems’ research on the Hallmark-TCEM program adds to the company’s machine learning and artificial intelligence segment of its autonomy technology portfolio. The capabilities developed under the Hallmark-TCEM effort will be integrated into DARPA’s Hallmark Software Testbed (Hallmark-ST) program. Work for the program will be completed at the company’s facilities in Burlington, Massachusetts and Reston, Virginia.

Steel cut

BAE Systems has cut steel for the second Type 26 Global Combat Ship, HMS CARDIFF, marking an important milestone in the programme to deliver the most advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability to the Royal Navy.

The hull of the Royal Navy’s second Type 26 Frigate, HMS Cardiff, has now entered construction

In a traditional steel cut ceremony at our shipyard in Govan on the River Clyde, attended by our employees and representatives from the Royal Navy, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister for Defence Procurement, performed the official duties; setting the plasma cutting machine to work on a plate of steel that will form part of the unit that holds vital fuel stores for the ship.

We have designed and built the Type 26 Global Combat Ship in Glasgow. The Type 26 frigate is an advanced ASW warship designed for the critical protection of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent and Carrier Strike Group. The City Class Type 26 will build on the pedigree of the Royal Navy’s current Type 23 Anti-Submarine Warfare frigates which have served the Nation well. Each Type 26 will be equipped with a range of capabilities including the Sea Ceptor missile defence system, a 5-inch/127-mm medium calibre gun, flexible mission bay, Artisan 997 Medium Range Radar, powerful bow and towed array sonars and a vertical launch silo capable of hosting a variety of weapons.

The ceremony to mark the formal start of manufacture on the second of the Type 26 Global Combat Ships, HMS CARDIFF, comes two years after steel was cut on the first in class, HMS GLASGOW. Momentum on HMS GLASGOW continues with over one half of the ship now in production and she remains on track to enter service in the mid-2020s.

We have now marked the start of construction of seven complex warships for the UK Royal Navy in just five years, with HMS CARDIFF following her sister ship, HMS GLASGOW, and the five River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV). All five OPVs are now in the water with the first, HMS FORTH, already in active operation for the Royal Navy.

Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP said: «The Royal Navy’s new world beating Type 26 anti-submarine frigates are truly a UK-wide enterprise, supporting thousands of jobs here in Scotland and across the UK. These ships will clearly contribute to UK and allied security, but also make a strong economic contribution to the country. With 64 sub-contracts already placed with UK-based businesses, there will be new export opportunities for them to tender for through the selection of the Type 26 design by Australia and Canada too».

We are working alongside 80 companies across the UK and international supply chain to deliver the programme, helping to sustain 4,000 jobs across the UK and providing a foundation for work on the Clyde into the next decade.

Commenting on today’s significant milestone, Steve Timms, Managing Director, BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: «Today’s steel cut ceremony demonstrates the significant and positive progress we are making on this hugely complex, sophisticated and important programme. The Type 26 ships will be the most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates the Royal Navy has ever had and, together with the five-ship River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel programme, we are proud of the role we play at BAE Systems, alongside many thousands of dedicated people in our supply chain, to deliver this critical capability for the UK Royal Navy».

The Global Combat Ship supports a close partnership between the UK Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, all of whom have selected a variant of the Type 26 design for their anti-submarine frigate programmes, supporting greater operational, training and intelligence ties.

Steel cut ceremony signals important progress on UK Royal Navy programme

Cavour

On July 20, the Aircraft Carrier «Cavour» (C-550) entered the «Edgardo Ferrati» drydock at the Italian Navy Arsenal at Taranto. The entry of the aircraft carrier into one of the largest military masonry dockyards in Europe represents the «turning point» in the conduct of maintenance and modernization work which, after ten years of service, will also allow the ship to adapt to the standards required for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, which will ultimately replace the current fleet of AV-8B Harrier combat aircraft operated by the Italian Navy’s carrier air group.

The «Cavour» (C-550) Aircraft Carrier Enters the «Edgardo Ferrati» Drydock of the Italian Navy Arsenal of Taranto

On board was the Commander in Chief of the Navy Fleet, Admiral Donato Marzano. Displacing 27,000 tonnes, «Cavour» (C-550) is the largest ship to enter the «Edgardo Ferrati» since World War Two.

The delicate maneuvers, from the ship’s entry into the drydock to her positioning and to the emptying of the drydock, lasted about 17 hours and involved, in addition to the ship’s crew, the military and civilian personnel of the Naval Arsenal of Taranto.

Beginning at 6 a.m., the operation was conducted in two stages: first, during the morning, the carrier entered the basin, while in the afternoon she was positioned by the Arsenale staff before emptying the basin. The combat divers of the Taranto-based S.D.A.I group (Sminazione Difesa Antimezzi Insidiosi, or demining and defense against insidious threats) also contributed to the safety of the ship.

Over the coming months, some of the most important technical modifications will be carried out on board the carrier, including the careening of the hull and the metallic reinforcement of the flight deck, necessary to limit the thermodynamic impact of the new aircraft.

The «Cavour» (C-550) maintenance and adaptation work represents the best potential of the production capacity of the Taranto dockyard, and are experimenting to develop the synergy between the Arsenale naval dockyard, national industry (Fincantieri and Leonardo) and small and medium enterprises, coordinated by the technical offices of the Navy.

At the end of the overhaul work, scheduled for the spring of 2020, the «Cavour» (C-550) will go through a preparatory training period before she sails to the United States in the summer to conduct trials her future F-35B Lightning II aircraft on board.

These activities will represent the first important steps to achieve the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the aircraft carrier with her new air group.

The Italian Navy’s flagship, the aircraft carrier «Cavour» (C-550), enters the drydock at Taranto Naval Arsenal, one of the oldest masonry drydocks in Europe, for a 9-month refit to prepare her for her future F-35B Lightning II air wing (Italian Navy video)