Category Archives: Ground

Unmanned vehicles

A live demo was held by Estonian Defence Industry companies on 17th of May in the Defence Forces central training area to demonstrate the functioning of new refence solutions in a combat situation.

Estonian defence industry companies demonstrated comprehensible defence solutions in a military simulation exercise
Estonian defence industry companies demonstrated comprehensible defence solutions in a military simulation exercise

According to the Head of the Estonian Defence and Security Industry Innovation Cluster, Ingvar Pärnamäe, Estonian defence industry companies have taken a remarkable developmental leap in the last decade, and they have become reliable defence industry partners for the Defence Forces of Estonia as well as for world-leading defence companies and a number of foreign countries. Cooperation and partnerships between defence industry companies have also improved. Companies have realised that it is much better, particularly in export markets, to cooperate and reinforce each other’s strengths than to compete against each other.

«Today’s supra-company combat simulation exercise, which is carried out within the Estonian Defence Force’s annual «Spring Storm» exercise, successfully used the products of Estonian defence companies and the equipment of the Defence Forces. We saw how innovative military equipment, such as Milrem’s unmanned ground vehicles and the unmanned aerial systems of Threod Systems and ELI cooperated in a combat situation by exchanging real-time information and supporting the attack team, thereby helping to defeat the adversary», explained Pärnamäe, adding that while the ammunition used in the simulation exercise may have seemed realistic, it was actually the training ammunition developed by Bristol Trust, which is also used in everyday training for its high safety. This effectively demonstrates the capacity of Estonian defence companies to contribute to security, defence training and modern combat equipment.

«While the defence industry is often considered to be a «playground for big boys» and is inaccessible to newcomers, both ELI and Threod Systems, for example, have become world class defence equipment suppliers and have won defence tenders in both the East and West. ELI has received the largest order in the history of the Estonian defence industry from the Azerbaijan authorities. Milrem, a developer of UGVs, is participating in the US Army’s SMET programme for unmanned ground vehicles», highlighted Pärnamäe, adding that while the Estonian defence companies are small on a global scale, they show enormous potential.

Kuldar Väärsi, Chairman of the Board of Milrem, said that the development activities of Estonian defence companies are focused on long-term plans that take into account the diverse uses of the products and the changes in defence technologies. This may be why Estonian defence companies have managed to gain a foothold in the competition against large and well-established defence industry companies. «Today’s live demo shows how various smart robotic solutions developed by Estonian companies improve the combat capacity of troops in terms of both situation awareness, manoeuvrability and firepower».

Tõnu Vaher, Manager of ELI OÜ, the manufacturer of the unmanned aerial systems used in the simulation exercise and the holder of the title of «Defence Industry Company of the Year 2016», said that cooperation with both the Defence Forces and other defence companies is crucial because it provides feedback on their products, and enables the company to invest in product development that take into account the changed needs. «For example, our multirotors can be used on the battlefield in cooperation with the Defence Forces, but drones have an important role in border protection and in ensuring security in cooperation with Defendec and other defence companies», said Vaher.

Villiko Nurmoja, representative of the unmanned aerial systems developer Threod Systems OÜ, said that cooperation between Estonian defence industry companies enables operators to succeed in the world and become established in large markets. «Integrating different systems is also beneficial to end-users because it speeds up the decision-making process and enhances the effect. In order to gain and share experiences, Threod Systems is flying its UAVs throughout the Spring Storm exercise and performing different reconnaissance tasks in accordance with the exercise scenario», explained Nurmoja.

12 Estonian defence industry companies demonstrated their products during the Spring Storm exercise:

Bristol Trust, Defendec, Englo, I.V.A Leon, Milrem, Nefab, Profline, Rantelon, Samelin, Telegrupp, Tele2 and Alexela.

Tank Protection

The U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) has awarded Lockheed Martin a next-phase contract to continue maturing the Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) controller base kit hardware and software and to support government integration efforts ahead of platform demonstrations scheduled to take place through 2019.

The U.S. Army and Lockheed Martin are developing and demonstrating the Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) framework, an open-architecture survivability solution for armored ground vehicles. The MAPS framework uses mature sensors and countermeasures to protect vehicles and their crews now, and readily upgrades to meet emerging threats
The U.S. Army and Lockheed Martin are developing and demonstrating the Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) framework, an open-architecture survivability solution for armored ground vehicles. The MAPS framework uses mature sensors and countermeasures to protect vehicles and their crews now, and readily upgrades to meet emerging threats

MAPS is designed to enable protection of vehicles and their occupants by integrating sensors and countermeasures in a common framework to detect and defeat existing and emerging threats.

Lockheed Martin delivered five MAPS controllers to TARDEC in 2017. As part of the 16-month follow-on effort, its engineers will work with TARDEC to mature the base kit hardware and software and to support integration of the MAPS Base Kit with existing sensors and countermeasures for U.S. Army virtual and range demonstrations on combat vehicles.

«Our MAPS offering is ready to support field tests using today’s platforms and active protection system components», said Paul Lemmo, vice president of Sensors & Global Sustainment at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. «A modular and open-architecture design means any component can be selectively upgraded across all MAPS-enabled platforms to address emerging threats. That promotes affordability by extending the system’s life cycle, and boosts protection for the warfighter without increasing vehicle weight».

The TARDEC MAPS Base Kit, delivered by Lockheed Martin, consists of a controller, user interface, power management distribution system and application software. It integrates Modular APS Framework (MAF)-compliant components, sensors and countermeasures to detect and defeat threats targeting MAPS-equipped vehicles. In addition to current combat vehicle platforms, it is designed to support future vehicle protection system capabilities.

 

UNCLASSIFIED: Distribution Statement A. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited

 

Modular Active Protection Systems: Ahead of the Threat Curve

Underwater Radio

The Mechanically Based Antenna program could enable radio communication through seawater and the ground and directly between warfighters hundreds and ultimately thousands of kilometers apart.

A fundamentally new approach to building radio transmitters could open previously impossible communication channels for warfighters
A fundamentally new approach to building radio transmitters could open previously impossible communication channels for warfighters

Here’s something easy to forget when you are chatting on your cell phone or flipping channels on your smart TV: although wireless communication seems nothing short of magic, it is a brilliant, reality-anchored application of physics and engineering in which radio signals travel from a transmitter to a receiver in the form of electric and magnetic fields woven into fast-as-light electromagnetic waves. That very same physics imposes some strict limits, including ones that frustrate the Department of Defense (DoD). Key among these is that radio frequency signals hit veritable and literal walls when they encounter materials like water, soil, and stone, which can block or otherwise ruin those radio signals. This is why scuba buddies rely on sign language and there are radio-dead zones inside tunnels and caves.

With his newly announced A MEchanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) effort, program manager Troy Olsson of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office is betting on a little-exploited aspect of electromagnetic physics that could expand wireless communication and data transfer into undersea, underground, and other settings where such capabilities essentially have been absent. The basis for these potential new abilities are ultra-low-frequency (ULF) electromagnetic waves, ones between hundreds of hertz and 3 kilohertz (KHz), which can penetrate some distance into media like water, soil, rock, metal, and building materials. A nearby band of very-low-frequency (VLF) signals (3 KHz to 30 KHz) opens additional communications possibilities because for these wavelengths the atmospheric corridor between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere – the highest and electric-charge-rich portion of the upper atmosphere – behaves like a radio waveguide in which the signals can propagate halfway around the planet.

«If we are successful, scuba divers would be able to use a ULF channel for low bit-rate communications, like text messages, to communicate with each other or with nearby submarines, ships, relay buoys, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and ground-based assets, Through-ground communication with people in deep bunkers, mines, or caves could also become possible», Olsson said. And because of that atmospheric waveguide effect, VLF systems might ultimately enable direct soldier-to-soldier text and voice communication across continents and oceans.

To date, there’s been a huge and expensive rub to actually pulling off low-frequency radio communication in the versatile ways that Olsson has in mind. The wavelengths of VLF and ULF radio signals rival the distances across cities and states, respectively. And since longer wavelengths have required taller antennas, communications in these frequency bands have entailed the construction of enormous and costly transmitter structures. A VLF antenna that the U.S. Navy built on a remote peninsula in Cutler, Maine, in the heat of the Cold War just to send a trickle of data to submarines makes the point: the gargantuan transmitter complex occupies 2,000 acres/8 square kilometers, features 26 towers up to 1,000 feet/305 m high, and operates with megawatt levels of power.

With the AMEBA program, Olsson aims to develop entirely new types of VLF and ULF transmitters that are sufficiently small, light, and power efficient to be carried by individual warfighters, whether they are on land, in the water, or underground. Rather than relying on electronic circuits and power amplifiers to create oscillating electric currents that, when driven into antennas, initiate radio signals, the new low-frequency VLF and ULF antennas sought in the AMEBA program would generate the signals by mechanically moving materials harboring strong electric or magnetic fields.

In principle, this is as simple as taking a bar magnet or an electret – an insulating substance, such as a cylinder of quartz (silica) glass, in which positive and negative electric charges are permanently segregated to create an electric dipole – and moving it at rates that will generate ULF and VLF frequencies. To open up practical new capabilities in national security contexts, however, the challenges include packing more powerful magnetic and electric fields into smaller volumes with smaller power requirements than has ever been achieved before for a ULF or VLF transmitter. That will require innovations in chemistry and materials (new magnets and electrets), design (shapes and packing geometries of these materials), and mechanical engineering (means of mechanically moving the magnets and electrets to generate the RF signals).

«Mobile low-frequency communication has been such a hard-technological problem, especially for long-distance linkages, that we have seen little progress in many years», said Olsson. «With AMEBA, we expect to change that. And if we do catalyze the innovations we have in mind, we should be able to give our warfighters extremely valuable mission-expanding channels of communications that no one has had before».