Posts filed under ‘Unmanned Aircraft’

BALTIC to BLACK: From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, Russia’s Neighbors Are Nervous

Sweden to Resume Draft.

Armored vehicles loaded with troops hit the beach in Sweeden during BALTOPS 2015

(A Swedish amphibious assault vehicle participating in NATO exercise BALTOPS 2015.)

Concerned about Russia’s aggressive actions in the Baltic region, and mounting uncertainty over Europe’s alliance with the United States, Swedish authorities have announced mandatory military service will return for men and women next year.

Sweden, which abolished the draft in 2010, plans to conscript 4,000 men and women in 2018, according to the New York Times. Unlike most of its neighbors in the region (Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) Sweden is neutral and not a member of NATO.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Baltics became a region of stability. But all that changed with Russia’s annexation of Crimea three years ago and the Russian support for the insurgency in Ukraine, the Times said. Swedish military spending last year  was up 11 percent.

“The Russian illegal annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine and the increased military activity in our neighborhood are some of the reasons,” Marinette Nyh Radebosaid, a Swedish defense ministry spokesperson, told the BBC.

map-baltic-region

(Map courtesy of NATO Review.)

In recent years, Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior. There have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007.

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Norway Boosts Defense Budget.

Last year, Norway announced a 1.9 billion krone ($230 million) increase in defense spending for 2017, bringing the country’s total military spending to 50.9 billion krone. More than 12 billion of that amount was to go to procurement, IHS Jane’s reported last October.

The increase, part of Norway’s Long Term Defence Plan, drew criticism from opposition lawmakers who didn’t like where the money would come from — the Government Pension Fund. But according to Defense News, cross-party support for the boost in defense spending was fueled by two concerns: keeping pace with Russia’s military buildup in the High North (above the Arctic Circle) and whether the Trump White House might weaken U.S. spending on maintaining European security.

The Norwegian Defense Ministry wants to buy more F-35 strike fighters, three helicopter-equipped Coast Guard vessels and CV-90 combat armored vehicles, as well as armored reconnaissance systems and artillery equipment. Longer term acquisition plans would seek a new air defense system and multi-role drones.

“Given all that is happening in the region, Norway needs to have the strongest defense that it can afford,” Bård Vegard Solhjell, a Socialist Left Party member of parliament told Defense News last month.

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U.S. Troops in Romania.

Meanwhile, the United States military is training with NATO militaries and partner nations in and around the Black Sea.

Platinum Eagle 17.1: Dismount Range

(A U.S. Marine, center, watches Ukrainian soldiers in action during Exercise Platinum Eagle at Smardan Training Area, Romania, on February 24, 2017. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Sean J. Berry.)

The latest operation: Soldiers, tanks and M88 recovery vehicles from the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment’s “Fighting Eagles” recently arrived in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The soldiers and equipment traveled more than 1,100 miles from western Poland, where the battalion and the rest of the 3,500 soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), deployed to Europe, initially assembled.

Participating in Atlantic Resolve means the 3rd ABCT will conduct bilateral and multinational training with allies in eight different countries, according to the Army. The emphasis will be increasing interoperability with Romanian and Bulgarian land forces over the next six months.

The 3rd ABCT began arriving in Europe from Fort Carson, Colorado in January. The 3rd ABCT is bringing approximately 3,500 personnel and 87 tanks, 18 Paladin self-propelled guns; 419 humvee  variants; 144 Bradley Fighting Vehicles; (446 tracked vehicles, 907 wheeled vehicles, 650 trailers).

4th ID strengthes ties with Romanian NFIU

Major Royce Baker, chief of fires with the 4th Infantry Division Mission Command Element, meets Colonel Catalin Ticulescu, commander of the Romanian NATO Force Integration Unit, during a Multinational Division-South East Command staff exchange. (Photo by Army Staff Sergeant Diandra J. Harrell)

In February 2017 units began distributing across region with to Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany and several Baltic nations.

 

 

 

 

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March 9, 2017 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 22, 2016)

Last Run.

Here we go Kiowa Warriors

Defense Dept. photo by Kenneth Kassens.

Thirty-two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters with the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade  — the last U.S.-based Kiowa squadron–  conduct a flyover during a farewell flight above Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Under the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI)  — a cost-saving program to fund future development and acquisition of helicopters — the Army is divesting its OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters. The Army is replacing them with active duty AH-64 Apache attack helos and pairing them with unmanned aircraft.

The 1st Squadron will deploy to Korea this summer. When it returns, it will be switching over to Apaches.

The April 15 flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and the Fayetteville, N. C. community. To learn more about the flyover, the Kiowa Warriors and the people who flew them, click here to read an article co-authored by our friend and colleague, Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer, (via Stars and Stripes).

April 21, 2016 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First Afghan Drone; U.S. Navy Foreign Sales Plan; China Drones in Africa

Afghan Scan Eagle.

ScanEagle

The Afghan military could be flying its first unarmed surveillance drone as early as March, according to a U.S. commander in Kabul, Reuters reports.

The NATO-led military alliance will provide the remotely piloted Insitu ScanEagle aircraft, and will train Afghan soldiers to operate the system, said Major General Gordon Davis, commander of the unit that procures new equipment for the Afghans, Reuters said.

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Navy Plans Foreign Sales.

Insitu’s RQ-21 Blackjack drone, now being flown by the Marine Corps, is among the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) the U.S. Navy says it will offer for foreign sales.

Reporting from the Singapore Air Show, Defense News, says the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, a small unmanned helicopter, and Northrop Grumman’s high flying MQ-4C Triton, a large-scale maritime surveillance aircraft, will be among the UAS available to foreign military customers.

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Nigerian Drones from China?

For African governments facing tight defense budgets and chronic security threats, Chinese military equipment has great appeal, particularly as it often comes as part of a broader package of trade and investment, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Ten African nations have started buying equipment from China within the last 10 years, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Angola and Nigeria.

And armed drones may be among the military equipment Nigeria is buying. In January 2015, photos of an armed drone that had crashed in a field in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno found their way onto the Internet. A second crash was reported in June. The drone was identified as a CH-3, an armed version of earlier drones built by China Aerospace Science and Technology, a vast state-owned enterprise employing more than 170,000 people.

February 18, 2016 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Defending Against Small Drone Threat

Drone Killers.

Small drones, often commercially available, are a growing concern to military forces and security operations, according to a recent story in Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).

The November 6 piece by David Eschel, writing from Tel Aviv (with some assistance from your 4GWAR Editor), notes that defense contractors and research institutes are rushing to offer technologies to counter the threat from little, inexpensive unmanned aircraft that are easy to make, simple to fly and hard to detect. Israel has become a leader in developing counter drone methods and systems — as small unmanned aircraft from Syria, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere have tried to penetrate Israeli airspace.

U.S. companies like Lockheed Martin have developed non-kinetic ways to combat unmanned aerial system threats. ICARUS, Lockheed Martin’s counter drone system combines multi-spectral sensor technology with advanced cyber electromagnetic technology to detect, intercept and defeat small drones that can evade most standard radar systems.

Another, man-portable drone-jamming device developed has been developed by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle. DroneDefender is designed to thwart intrusions into restricted areas by small off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often too small to spot on radar, like the quadcopter that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House last January.

The Battelle counter drone system weighs less than 10 pounds and can be mounted on any firearm equipped with a Picatinny rail for attaching accessories like a rifle scope. The device Battelle used in a demonstration video looks like an assault rifle with a radio antenna for a barrel and a Dustbuster (handheld vacuum cleaner) attached below.

Both ICARUS and DroneDefender debuted at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) expo in Washington. DroneDefender uses and radio control frequency disruption technologies to stop unmanned UAVs in midair from a distance of 400 meters. Once an intruding drone is spotted, a guard equipped with the shoulder mounted device just has to aim, lock on and pull the trigger, launching the drone-capturing beam. The DroneDefender relies on visual identification rather than radar or video sensors Battelle said, to “make the man our detector and decision maker.”

Because of its portability, Battelle officials say DroneDefender provides instant threat mitigation by quickly disrupting the drone so no remote action, including detonation of an explosive device, can occur over sensitive areas.

Once it is neutralized in flight, the UAV will do one of three things depending on how it was programmed: drop to the ground; return to its operator or descend in a controlled manner. Since the disruption is not kinetic like a rifle or shotgun blast, it minimizes both drone damage and the risk to public safety – two capabilities long sought by police and security guards.

November 12, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

DEFENSE/PEACEKEEPING: Big Week Coming

Two Big Conferences.

Calendar14GWAR was lying low last week after a busy conference season — Air & Space — Modern Day Marine — Military Reporters and Editors and one of the biggest, the Association of the U.S. Army.

But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.

It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

For more information, click here.

ISOA SUMMIT

The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).

ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”

We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.

Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.

October 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

ARMY: Big Army Expo Opens This Week

Win in a Complex World.

Combat vehicles, communications and protective gear will all be on display at the AUSA 2015 conference and trade show. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Combat vehicles, communications and protective gear will all be on display at the AUSA 2015 conference and trade show.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — All things Army — from ground combat vehicles, protective gear, unmanned vehicles, drones, sensors, small arms, strategy and tactics will be on display and under discussion at the Washington Convention Center this week as the Association of the U.S. Army holds its annual conference and exposition.

Among the speakers will be outgoing Army Secretary John McHugh and the new Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. They will discuss the challenges facing today’s Army with the threat of more budget cuts and planned reductions in the size of the force.

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology — she’s in charge of figuring out what the Army needs to buy or develop and whether and how much it will cost — is another anticipated speaker, as is General Dennis Via, commanding general of Army Materiel Command. Both of them will provide an update on Army modernization plans.

The theme of the conference is Winning in a Complex World and General David Perkins, commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command will discuss what that will take.

With conflicts, insurgencies and threats in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East and West Africa as well as Asia, the U.S. military has said it will be increasingly leaning on partner nations and allies to help bear the burden of dealing with crises around the world.

And foreign militaries and defense contractors will have a big presence at the already huge expo. There will be 62 countries represented at the event, including eight international pavilions on the exhibit hall floor, according to retired Lieutenant General Roger Thompson, AUSA’s vice president for membership and meeting. Turkey will have the largest pavilion, he told the Defense News weekly military affairs broadcast Sunday.

Several U.S. contractors, including  Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Defense, will be unveiling new ground vehicles. Northrop will be showing off its Hellhound prototype Light Reconnaissance Vehicle and Oshkosh Defense will unveil its MRAP 6-by-6 All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). MRAP stands for mine resistant ambush protected, in other words an armored vehicle that can protect occupants from roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

October 12, 2015 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Robotic Transport/Supply Vehicles Deliver the Goods

By Land, Sea or Air.

The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter.
(Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The military is exploring ways that unmanned systems, from helicopters to submarines, can be used to transport supplies in hostile or dangerous areas.

Last year, Lockheed Martin and Kaman’s unmanned K-MAX helicopter returned from nearly three years of transporting cargo for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan — the first unmanned helicopter to do so.

With their supply truck convoys frequent targets of roadside bombs and insurgent attacks, the Marines were looking for a safer alternative. K-MAX’s cargo transportation was able to take an estimated 900 trucks off the road and their drivers and escorts out of harm’s way.

But transporting supplies isn’t limited to unmanned aircraft. Manned ground vehicles–from small, rugged all-terrain vehicles to heavy cargo trucks are being converted into autonomously operating vehicles.

The same is true of the optionally manned Proteus, a dual mode underwater vehicle that can deliver special operations forces swimmers or their equipment and supplies to shore from a submerged submarine.

Battelle and Huntington Ingalls Industries' Proteus submersible is a dual mode underwater vehicle. The battery-powered 8,240-pound craft can transport up to 3,600 pounds of cargo autonomously from the dry deck shelter of a submarine to shore. (Photo courtesy Batelle)

Battelle and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Proteus submersible is a dual mode (manned/unmanned) underwater vehicle. The battery-powered 8,240-pound craft can transport up to 3,600 pounds of cargo autonomously from the dry deck shelter on a submarine to shore.
(Photo courtesy Battelle)

Originally developed by as a swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) for up to six Navy SEALS, Proteus, a massive 8,000-pound submersible, is now being leased by the Navy for testing as a dual mode vehicle that can operate as manned SDV or a cargo-carrying unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). “The idea of using it as an unmanned mule is very feasible,” says George Geoghegan, maritime systems manager for Battelle — which together with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries — owns and operates Proteus.

The almost 26-foot-long Proteus has 170 cubic feet of space in its cargo area and exterior side rails that can carry bulkier cargo, although the maximum total payload is limited to 1,100 pounds. Cargo will either have to be sealed in watertight packaging or be water resistant because the cabin is flooded when underway as part of its original mission: to allowing divers to enter and exit the vehicle while submerged. But that also means there’s more room for payload.

Powered by 20 lithium polymer batteries that weigh about 100 pounds each when underway, Proteus has a range of about 350 nautical miles at an energy-saving low speed of 3 knots, and a maximum speed of 9 knots fully-loaded, according to Geoghegan. Like an SDV, Proteus can be transported to a denied area in the dry deck shelter of a submarine. It can work at depths of 150 feet when manned, 200 feet unmanned.

Unmanned, the vessel can be pre-programmed to run underwater from point to point but it does not have obstacle avoidance capability. However, Geoghegan says that’s just another payload that can be added.

A Polaris xxxxxxx used in the GUSS autonomous squad vehicle study by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. (Photo courtesy of Polaris Defense)

A Polaris 6X6 used in the GUSS autonomous squad vehicle study by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
(Photo courtesy of Polaris Defense)

Polaris Defense offers their entire line of rugged ground vehicles as capable of manned or unmanned operation. “We build our vehicles with the ability to be optionally unmanned. And it’s everything from tele-operated to fully unmanned,” said General Manager Rich Haddad, adding “we’re not an autonomy company. We’re agnostic about whose autonomy package goes on the vehicle.”

But the company has acquired a ground guidance software package called Primordial “that could easily morph into a mission planning type of capability. We are integrating that into our vehicle but it is not in itself an autonomy package,” Haddad said.

Polaris supplies a range of all terrain vehicles for elements of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Polaris supplied the ground vehicles that contestants were required to drive in DARPA’s Robotic Challenge to identify robots that could perform human tasks in disasters. And a Polaris 6×6 vehicle was converted by TORC Robotics into the autonomous and semi-autonomous Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) that is being studied by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.

To read more on this topic, click here to see our story in Military Logistics Forum magazine’s September issue (pages 8-9).

October 6, 2015 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

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