Posts tagged ‘aerospace’
Avoiding Nasty Surprises
The uproar over the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging cell phone and Internet surveillance revived a national debate about the necessity of intelligence gathering and what the federal government does with what it learns.
But the accumulation of “Big Data” – millions and millions of phone calls, text messages and emails — whether by government agencies or private corporations, underscores the urgency of acquiring intelligence that can be acted upon in real time. This is especially true in an era when the United States is confronted by near peer competitors like China and Russia, hostile nation states such as North Korea and Iran and non-state, violent extremist networks like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Actionable intelligence is simply that: information gleaned from a range of sources that enables decision makers – from political leaders to field commanders – to take appropriate and timely action when faced with a security threat like an imminent terrorist attack or the shipment of weapons of mass destruction.
The bottom line: preventing nasty surprises.
Two U.S. airmen conduct a security check around a disabled C-130 Hercules aircraft on Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan’s Logar province, June 6, 2013. The two sentinels are part of the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Fly Away Security Team. They are forward deployed from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan.
Next Gen GPS Satellite
U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced today (June 5) it has successfully completed final functional integration tests of the network communications equipment going on the next generation Global Positioning Satellite system known as GPS III.
GPS is a navigation system provided by two dozen medium earth orbit satellites maintained and operated by the U.S. Air Force. GPS allows users — both civilian and military — to track where they are on the Earth’s surface to within a couple of meters. The ageing system, first created during the Cold War, is to be replaced by the newer, more accurate GPS III satellites being built by a Lockheed Martin-led team. In addition to being more accurate, the new GPS satellites are said to be more resistant to signal jamming, a growing concern to the military and commercial air and maritime businesses.
Your 4GWAR editor recently completed a magazine article on technologies to improve or even replace satellite-based navigation. The piece will be in the July issue of Unmanned Systems magazine, published by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The Lockheed Martin team also successfully tested how the the spacecraft bus that will carry the GPS equipment and other payloads into space will integrate with other equipment on the satellite. That testing of the GPS III space vehicle — known as SV 1– assures that all the systems on the part of the space craft that carries mission payloads are functioning normally and ready for final integration with the satellite’s navigation system.
The systems that were tested include: guidance, navigation and control, command and data handling, on-board computer and flight software. The SV 1 satellite’s network communications equipment also passed all tests.
The successfull completion of the latest SV 1 testing “validates that the spacecraft is now ready to begin the next sequence of payload integration and environmental testing,” said Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martion’s Navigation Systems mission area.
The satellite remains on schedule for flight-ready delivery to the Air Force in 2014, company officials said.. Lockheed Martin is under contract for production of the first four GPS III satellites and advanced procurement funding for certain components of satellites five through eight.
Big Boat, With Friend
The High-Speed Vessel Swift (HSV-2) got underway in Key West, Florida recently (April 24) with a tethered Aerostat balloon. The crew of the Swift will conduct a series of capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat, TIF-25K — a lighter than air unmanned air vehicle– could participate in U.S. Southern Command’s Operation Martillo.
Aerostats are like blimps but instead of cruising in the air, they are tethered to one spot. They can be used for persistent coastal surveillance when equipped with up to 420 pounds of sensors and other surveillance equipment.
That is a joint, interagency and multinational effort to block transnational criminal organizations from using air or maritime access to the littoral (coastal) regions of the Central America.
Navy League’s Expo
Your intrepid 4GWAR editor is at the Navy League’s 2013 Sea-Air-Space Expo at the Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland (it’s across the Potomac from Alexandria, Virginia).
The annual gathering brings together Navy and Coast Guard officials from all over — including many foreign countries — as well as defense contractors — large and small — and scribes like your editor to find out what’s the Navy’s up to and where it thinks it’s going in the future.
We’re helping the folks at Seapower, the Navy League’s magazine, cover the scores of briefings by Navy and Coast Guard commanders, government officials, big defense contractors and organizations dedicated to the sea services.
On Monday we wrote about the Navy’s plans for unmanned aircraft on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the successes of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and what Naval Air Systems Command is doing to integrate new systems into the fleet while making them interoperable with existing systems and platforms.
You can see all three stories among lots of others written by the staff of Seapower by clicking here.
Boom in a Box
U.S. soldiers stand beside a Patriot anti-missile missile battery awaiting the arrival of U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who was visiting a Turkish army base in Gaziantep, Turkey, last week (Feb. 4).
Two PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems and about 400 U.S. personnel to operate them began providing missile defense along Turkey’s southwestern border with Syria since late January. Other missile defense batteries are being provided by the Netherlands and Germany. They along with the United States and Turkey are all NATO members.
NATO foreign ministers agreed in late November to Turkey’s request for the air defense support. The request came after shells from Syria’s political unrest -– which a recent United Nations report estimated has claimed 60,000 lives — spilled into Turkey.
And no, those aren’t packing crates for the missiles in the photo. Those “boxes” are actually part of the launch system.
To see more photos of the Patriots and Carter’s visit to Turkey — including the U.S. embassy damaged by a terrorist suicide bomber, click here.
A flight of Israeli warplanes swoop in over northern Syria and destroy a suspected nuclear weapon manufacturing site without being noticed until their bombs are dropping on the facility. How? The Israelis have never admitted it, but news accounts revealed that Israeli technicians jammed Syrian anti-aircraft radar and brought down the computer system that operated it.
A U.S. Marine Corps sergeant on patrol in Afghanistan carries a backpack with an odd-shaped antenna, that looks like an old umbrella that’s had its canopy stripped away. The weird looking device is actually a radio signal jammer that keeps would-be roadside bombers from detonating their booby traps by pushing a button on a mobile phone.
A U.S. unmanned aircraft flies near Iranian airspace and then disappears. Iran says it brought down the top secret drone using electronic warfare technology that overrode the commands issued by the drone’s controllers. The Pentagon says the UAV crashed.
What do these disparate technologies have in common? They’re all forms of electronic warfare, the growing defense sector that uses the electromagnetic spectrum – or directed energy – as a weapon to jam an enemy’s systems, confuse defenders or maybe even take over control of an enemy’s technology.
You can read more of my story at the website of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, which will conduct an Electronic Warfare Summit March 18-20 in the Washington area. For details click here.
U.S. airmen and soldiers offload a UH64 Black Hawk from a C-5 Galaxy cargo lifter at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The C-5, which can carry two of these helos, has served the Air Force since 1969 and continues to provide vital heavy air lift to troops worldwide. To see more photos of this gynormous aircraft — the largest cargo plane in the Air Force — and its “little brother,” the C-17 Globemaster III, click here.
Please remember to click on the photo to enlarge the image.
A New Gold Rush
As it raises its defense spending as part of a strategy to secure its borders and offshore oil deposits, Brazil has become a big draw for foreign defense contractors like BAE Systems, Eurocopter, Boeing, Saab and Dassault, according to the Financial Times.
Brazil is building a fleet of five submarines — one of them nuclear-powered — with French contractor DCNS. And aircraft from France (Dassault’s Rafale), the United States (Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Sweden (Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen) are all vying for Brazil’s much delayed selection of a contractor to build a new fleet of more than 30 multi-role jet fighters.
Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and the sixth-largest economy in the world.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranks Brazil 10th in military spending in 2011 — up from 11th in 2010. Brazil’s military budget was $35.4 billion, SIPRI calculated, or 1.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product. it’s defense spending has risen 19 percent since 2002, even though it dropped 8.2 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Overall, Latin America’s defense spending dropped 3.3 percent in 2011. It was up 5.1 percent in 2010. The biggest increase was Mexico’s: up 5.7 percent in 2011 and up by 52 percent since 2002 — largely due to increased military involvement in the country’s war with drug cartels, SIPRI said in an April 2012 report.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer S.A. has signed an agreement with Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland establishing a joint venture to explore producing helicopters in Brazil, both companies announced recently.
Preliminary studies by Embraer and AgustaWestland indicate strong market potential for twin engine, medium lift helicopters — especially to meet the needs of the of the offshore oil and gas market. Other key market sectors, such as the military, “show promising potential as well,” the companies said.
Meet the Future
This tailless, unmanned strike fighter aircraft is one of two built by Northrop Grumman for testing by the Navy in a carrier environment. Three days after this UCAS-D was delivered by barge to the Truman (Nov. 26), the other UCAS-D was beinglaunched from a steam-powered catapult — another Navy first — at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland (Nov. 29).
“We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn’t envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here,” said Vice Admiral David Dunaway, commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)
The Navy will conduct X-47B carrier deck handling tests aboard the Truman, the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. Sea trials, set to begin later this month, will gauge the difficulty of integrating an unmanned aircraft into the confined space of a carrier flight deck. But no test flights off the carrier are scheduled until next summer, according to NAVAIR.
Both X-47Bs are test aircraft designed and built to prove an unmanned jet aircraft can operate off an aircraft carrier at sea. We’ve written more on this for Smithsonian Air & Space magazine’s website here.
For more photos, click here.