Archive for April, 2020

FRIDAY FOTO (April 24, 2020)

The New Normal.


U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation Class of 2020

(U.S. Air Force photo by Trang Le)

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets wearing face masks listen to opening remarks during the academy’s Class of 2020 graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 18, 2020.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Air Force Academy graduation proceedings were markedly different from previous years: No cheering friends and relatives packed into a football stadium. In fact, almost no one was allowed on campus except the graduates, speakers and some other Air Force and Defense Department dignitaries. The whole event was live-streamed  for friends and family members.

“This is a community we would normally welcome to Falcon Stadium but under the current circumstances we are honored to have your support from wherever you may be tuning in,” Academy Superintendent Lieutenant General Jay Silveria said in his opening remarks at the ceremony, held this year on the landmark massive quadrangle known as The Terrazzo.

There weren’t the usual hugs, handshakes and chest bumps cadets among the cadets  after receiving their diplomas. Each cadet marched or sat at least six feet away from their peers before, during and after the ceremony.

FRIFO 4-24-2020 Part2 2019 AFAcadmy grads

Class of 2019 graduates toss their hats skyward as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar overhead during the graduation ceremony at a packed Falcon Stadium on May 30, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by /Trevor Cokley)

However, the 2020 commencement ceremonies weren’t completely spartan.  Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address. The Air Force demonstration flying team, the Thunderbirds, made their traditional flyover, and 967 new officers closed-out their four years at the academy by hurling their hats in the air.

FRIFO 4-24-2020 Part3 2020 AFAcdmy grads hats

Amid the fellow cadets’ tossed hats, a class of 2020 graduate watched the Thunderbirds fly over the April 18, 2020 Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)


April 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

Robots, Droids and Drones: April 2020


AeroVironment Unveils Hybrid VTOL Drone.

AeroVironment is introducing a new lightweight, fully automated, hybrid vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) intelligence drone, Quantix Recon.


The four-rotor Quantix Recon intelligence drone takes off and lands vertically but flies horizontally for up to 45 minutes. (AeroVironment photo)

Quantix Recon delivers high resolution, geo-referenced terrain, vegetation and infrastructure imagery for ground forces, according to the California-based unmanned aircraft maker. “It’s actionable intelligence in minutes,” Brian Young, AeroVironment’s Product Line General Manager for Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) told an online  press briefing April 22.

Quantix Recon, which looks like a small airplane standing on its tail, is a five-pound (2.7 kilogram) unmanned aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, but flies horizontally. It stands 1.7 feet (51.8 centimeters) tall, with a wingspan of 1.3 feet (97.5 cm). Four battery-powered electric motors can keep the drone aloft for up to 45 minutes and withstand winds of 20 miles per hour.

Its dual 18-megapixel cameras can capture both high resolution true color and multispectral, geo-referenced imagery. And on-board processing allows users to immeditaely view the high resolution geospatial imagery on a tablet that comes with the aircraft, as soon as it lands.  Quantix Recon can survey up to 1.8 square kilometers (0.6 miles) or 20 linera kms (12.4 miles) on a single flight.

Because it doesn’t rely on radio signals during flight, Quantix Recon is stealthy and unaffected by radio jammers. The drone is described as man-portable but the wings are neither fold-able nor removable, so it can’t fit in a rucksack. However, one person can transport and operate it. The only assembly before flight is attaching the propellers to the four rotors. See a video of the UAS in action here.

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Carrier-Based Refueling Drone Update.

The U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing a modified contract for three additional MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling aircraft. That brings the total number of aircraft Boeing is manufacturing for the Navy to seven, according to Seapower.

The Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract in August 2018, to build the MQ-25, the Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft. The MQ-25 is designed to provide the Navy with a much-needed refueling capability, allowing for better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed F/A-18 Super Hornets and  EA-18G Growlers — both made by Boeing — and Lockheed Martin’s F-35C, the Navy variant of the joint strike fighter.


The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight, September 19, 2019, at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing)

Boeing recently concluded the first round of flight testing for its MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, resulting in nearly 30 hours in the air at various speeds and altitudes. The aircraft is undergoing a planned modification that includes installation of an aerial refueling store (ARS) under the left wing. Flight testing with the ARS will resume later this year.

The aerial refueling drone grew out of a Navy program to develop an autonomous carrier-based unmanned combat aerial vehicle to provide a stealthy unmanned strike asset to the fleet. However, in 2016 the Pentagon changed the program entirely to create a UAV for for aerial refueling to extend the range of manned fighters.

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Iran’s New Drones.

A large number of new combat and reconnaissance drones were delivered to the Iranian army on April 19, according to the Radio Farda website.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-linked news agency Tasnim stated the drones include new generations of Atlas and Ababil drones, adding that the two models Ababil-3 and Karrar had been showcased previously.

The unmanned Aerial Vehicles are to be used by the Air Force and Air Defense Units of Iran’s conventional army, the report said. Iran has introduced these high-cost drones while it has been complaining about the adverse impact of U.S. sanctions on its economy.

Radio Farda is the Persian language broadcaster at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. For more, read here

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Assessing Replacement for RQ-7 Raven.

The U.S. Army has begun testing four types of vertical take off and landing (VTOL) drones to assess what it will need to replace the RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Army Assessing RQ-7 Shadow replacement

(Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division conduct an engine start on the Arcturus JUMP 20 drone during the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System capabilities assessment at Fort Riley, Kansas on April 8, 2020 (U.S. Army photo: Program Executive Office Aviation)

The 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team began soldier-operated flights April 7, 2020 during the Army Futures Command-directed Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) capabilities assessment at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The troops are evaluating selected unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to define the capabilities needed in the next generation UAS for brigade combat teams. Data gathered during the assessment will be critical to determining the requirements for the RQ-7 Shadow replacement.

The 1st ABCT have been demonstrating the Arcturus UAV JUMP 20, one of four VTOL UAS procured for the assessment. The JUMP 20, it is the largest of the selected systems weighing 210 pounds with an 18-foot wingspan. Despite the size, it has a reduced acoustic signature compared to the Shadow.

Other Army units participating in the assessment have been assigned the Martin V-Bat, Textron’s Aerosonde HQ, L3 Harris FVR-90 and a second Arcturus UAV JUMP 20 are scheduled to begin in the coming months.

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Towed Array Sonar for Unmanned Boat.

Israeli defense electronic company, Elbit Systems has integrated the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar for Unmanned Surface Vessels (TRAPS-USV) with Elbit’s Seagull USV.

The sea trials included several deployment and recovery cycles, towing at different speeds and transmission at various power levels. The TRAPS-USV is a compact variant of the TRAPS, a technology that is intended for detection, classification, localization and tracking of submarines. TRAPS versions are containerized or permanent-fit for any size, diverse-purpose vessel, according to Seapower.

The TRAPS-USV variant is lighter but maintains all acoustic active sonar capabilities of TRAPS. TRAPS-USV is the compact and powerful low frequency towed sonar that was recently introduced by Geospectrum, Elbit’s wholly owned Canadian subsidiary.

To see a video, click here.

April 23, 2020 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 17, 2020)

Keeping Their Distance.

Morning Sprints

(U.S. Army photo by Army Specialist Ryan Lucas)

Army paratroopers participate in physical training at Caserma Del Din, Italy on March 31, 2020. Note they’re practicing social distancing. All of the armed services are grappling with how, when and where to train a force that is supposed to be ready to protect the country any time, anywhere.

That’s been especially tricky in Italy — one of the European countries hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. That outbreak has sickened 168,941 people and killed 22,172 in Italy, according to the World Health Organization.

The pandemic’s devastation — 139,515 deaths worldwide — shows that the U.S. military must prepare to operate in a new domain besides land, sea, air, space and cyber, according to the top commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa.

“That seventh domain is just simply germs. It’s the biosphere we operate in,” Admiral James Foggo III said April 15 during a webcast for Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2020: Virtual Edition. “And I think we’re going to have to take that into account in our preparations for deterrence and defense in the future,” said Foggo.

April 17, 2020 at 11:53 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 10, 2020)

Change of Plans.

1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers make protective masks, Fight COVID-19

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Adam Armstrong)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, these Army parachute riggers have turned into mask makers.

Parachute riggers assigned to the Group Support Battalion of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) sew protective masks for patients at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington on  April 1, 2020.

The 1st Special Forces Group (A) riggers repurposed their sewing machines — typically used to repair parachutes — to assemble surgical masks.  “The Aerial Delivery Platoon will be able to produce 200 [masks] per day initially, with only five lightweight sewing machines,” said the battalion’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Jones.

On April 8, the Defense Department issued guidance for all military commanders and managers on cloth face mask protection. It directed that “to the extent practical, all individuals on Department of Defense property. installations and facilities are required to wear cloth  face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers” like a submarine or airplane cockpit.

April 10, 2020 at 5:31 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 3, 2020)

Too Cute.

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) Departs for Deployment

( U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Amanda Gray)

And now, for something completely different …

Most of the photos on the Defense Department website these days show folks wearing facemasks, rubber gloves and other protective gear, moving hospital beds, setting up hospital tents, stacking hospital gowns, loading or unloading food and medical supplies carried by trucks, ships, helicopters and airplanes. They’re also taking temperatures, swabbing, recording, sanitizing … you get the picture.

But you won’t get it today on this blog. There’s been enough this week and last month and the month before that about … you know what. We don’t want to even type that word and number anymore today.

We’ll have photos of all those brave, hard-working people in coming days, but right now,  here’s a sweet picture with no masks or thermometers. Just somebody’s children on a breezy day down by the water waving at a big black boat and its little companion.

According to the accompanying photo caption, these children are waving goodbye as the Virginia class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Hawaii on March 25, 2020.

So take your time, feel the breeze, smell the sea, listen for bird calls and waves lapping over the sound of the motorboat.

April 3, 2020 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment


April 2020


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