An autonomous Advanced Composite Riverine Craft (ACRC) delivers Unmanned Ground Vehicles to the beach to conduct threat detection and neutralization operations during the ANTX 2017 exercise. (ICI Services photo)

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19/01/2018

Draft US Document Confirms Russia Plans 'Doomsday' Weapon

WASHINGTON --- Some two years ago, Western intelligence and military experts scrambled to make sense of a strange new Russian weapon whose designs were glimpsed briefly in a mysterious report on Russian state TV. The weapon was a nuclear-capable underwater drone that would be launched from a submarine. The description accompanying a picture of the drone said such vehicles or weapons would be pilotless and capable of attacking enemies and creating "zones of extensive radioactive contamination unfit for military, economic or other activity for a long period of time." At the time, in November 2015, a Kremlin spokesman said the document was shown mistakenly in the state TV report. But the spokesman also made no effort to dispute or deny plans for such a weapon, and analysts concluded it was an intentional signal being sent by the Kremlin. Now, for the first time, there are public indications that U.S. intelligence have not only confirmed Russian intentions for the weapon, but are also trying to figure out how to respond to it. The indications came in a draft of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, a document crafted by the Defense Department every four years laying out the circumstances under which the United States will use nuclear weapons. The 64-page draft, first published by HuffPost earlier this month, stated that the document is "pre-decisional," indicating that it is still being debated by the Pentagon and other national security agencies. In a section concerning Russia, the document references Moscow's well-known and ongoing efforts to modernize its nuclear arsenal, something that has been a priority of President Vladimir Putin for years. "Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle, and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, undersea autonomous torpedo," the document said. That appears to refer to the underwater drone, which was dubbed Status-6 in November 2015 when Russian TV gave a first glimpse of the plans. Western analysts have said that if such a weapon were deployed and actually detonated off the U.S. East Coast, for example, it would shower radioactivity on major cities and render huge swaths of territory inhabitable. Some have called it a "doomsday machine" because of the indiscriminate destruction it would wreak. Analysts and arms experts in Washington and elsewhere have confirmed the authenticity of the document, known also as the NPR, while also emphasizing its “pre-decisional” nature. The Pentagon has declined to comment. The strategy is expected to formally released before the end of January, and President Donald Trump must give final approval. Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian military specialist at the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington, D.C., said the mention of the underwater drone in the NPR was a confirmation that the Russians indeed were considering such a weapon. "In terms of why they want to have something like that, my best guess is it's a response to our missile defenses…eliminating their second-strike ability,” he told RFE/RL. That refers to the ability of a nuclear-armed country to be attacked with nuclear weapons, and retain enough capacity to retaliate, with something like intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. The Russians "want to highlight to U.S. nuclear planners that 'hey, just because you think you’ll have the ability to take out all the ICBMs… we have other things'," Gorenburg said. “'You might be able to take out our missiles, but you won’t be able to take out this thing.'" In addition to confirming Russian plans for the weapons, the Nuclear Posture Review also lays out plans to build other new, nuclear weapons, including two that would be put on submarines or surface ships. It also calls for the development of new, "low-yield" nuclear weapons — warheads that have a smaller explosive force than those typically found on missiles. Arms control experts have warned that small nuclear weapons could end up making a nuclear confrontation more likely. -ends-
19/01/2018

Orbital ATK Demos Counter-UAV Technologies

DULLES, Virginia --- Orbital ATK recently participated in the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. The event allowed soldiers to use counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) technologies during a series of demonstrations to provide feedback on how these systems performed and could potentially help fill capability gaps for short range air defense. Orbital ATK demonstrated its ability to combine both electronic and kinetic attack through its AUDS (anti-unmanned aerial vehicle defense system) which detects, tracks, identifies and defeats drones, and also brings a kinetic element through the integration of the company’s XM914 30mm Bushmaster Chain Gun mounted to the Stryker combat vehicle platform. The gun system also provides the vehicle crew with the firepower needed to defend against ground threats. The combined weapon can work together or independently. “The ability to insert proven technologies is the key to shortening acquisition time and providing soldiers with the equipment they need today,” said Dan Olson, Vice President and General Manager for Orbital ATK’s Armament Systems Division. “Exercises and demonstrations such as MFIX provide the Army and industry the ability to understand how we can work together to focus our efforts to quickly deliver next generation technologies.” The AUDS system is modular, meaning that pieces of it can be tailored for use on different platforms types depending on mission requirements or, it can be installed at a fixed site position to provide C-UAS defense for a facility or operating base. Earlier this year, Orbital ATK was awarded an $8.5 million contract from the Program Directorate Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (PD C-RAM), Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, to integrate AUDS onto a mobile-anti-UAV defense system. Orbital ATK also demonstrated how a soldier, armed with its shoulder-fired XM25 airburst weapon system can down a malicious drone. Originally designed to provide soldiers with an ability to defeat targets in defilade positions, the XM25’s fire control system and 25mm airbursting ammunition have proven during MFIX and demonstrations conducted by Orbital ATK, that C-UAS is a natural additional capability the system provides. Orbital ATK designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 13,000 people across the U.S. and in several international locations. -ends-
19/01/2018

EDA Sets-Up Collaborative RPAS Training

ROME --- On Thursday 18 January 2018, the European Defence Agency (EDA) achieved a significant milestone within its Education, Training and Education portfolio with the deployment and linking of Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Remotely Piloted Air Systems (MALE RPAS) desktop simulators in France and Italy. The deployment to Italy completes the first tranche of up to nine systems, which will be distributed across European military RPAS Schools and Centres of Excellence that will allow networked collaborative training. The aim is to build over time a European MALE RPAS community of interest to improve procedures, tactics and to harmonise training approaches. The project was developed by the EDA under the mandate of the European MALE RPAS Community (DE, EL, ES, FR, IT, NL and PO) and is a joint effort with the European Air Group (BE and UK specifically) to enhance interoperability between Member States who currently field MALE RPAS platforms and those that aspire to the capability within a 5-10 year timeframe. The roll out of the systems will run in parallel with an increasingly ambitious virtual exercise programme that will provide opportunities for joint training and the cross-fertilisation of training approaches as instructors will teach lessons across the network to students at the dispersed sites. The project will run for four years initially as a Training Technology Demonstrator and has already attracted additional interest from other Member States. The EDA has for some time supported Member States ambitions in several areas of Education, Training and Exercise activity. The Agency is not a long-term training provider as such, but operates as a training consultancy, establishing business cases underpinning new initiatives for Member States to consider and setting up contracts on their behalf as required. Once initiatives have reached a sufficient level of maturity and are consolidated, they are transferred to a Member State or multinational organisation willing to take over administrative responsibilities and to ensure their longer term development. The Agency has achieved notable success in advanced helicopter exercises and training, airlift, energy management, armaments cooperation and its latest venture into training for unmanned systems. -ends-
18/01/2018

Boeing Unveils New Cargo Air Vehicle Prototype

In less than three months, a Boeing team designed and built an unmanned cargo air vehicle prototype. Researchers are using it as a test bed to mature the technological building blocks of safe, autonomous flight. It stands four feet off the ground and measures 15 by 18 feet. Powered by an environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system, it is outfitted with custom Boeing batteries and eight counter-rotating propeller blades for vertical flight. Click link to watch video Designed to carry up to 500 pounds, the prototype will open up new possibilities for future aerospace vehicles used to transport cargo and other potential logistics applications. Did you catch the big reveal? Watch it fly: https://www.facebook.com/Boeing/ (video may not play if opening in some versions of Internet Explorer). -ends-
18/01/2018

Anti-Drone Weapon Links EW and Ammunition

FORT SILL, Okla. --- The AUDS (anti-unmanned aerial vehicle defense system) has returned to Fort Sill to show off its ability to combine non-lethal defense with lethal. In April of 2017, the AUDS attended the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill with the capability to work against unamend aerial vehicles (UAV) or drone by detecting, tracking, identifying and defeating them. Now in December, AUDS has improved the ability to disrupt threats. "Once we find the UAS ... we look at them with the camera, then it’s like pulling a trigger on a gun (and disabling a target only were not using bullets)," said Col. (retired) Robert Menti, the senior manager for business development for Orbital ATK armament services division. A bullet remains the same size when it exits the chamber as it does when it hits a target (generically speaking), however with this technology it can cover a broader area as it gets further away from the source, this gives the user the ability to not have to be as accurate with the target because they are not required to hit a small target. To differentiate themselves from the C-UAS pack, Orbital ATK (who helped develop AUDS) chose to focus their efforts on adding a kinetic element. "Now we have taken all the non-lethal pieces and linked it with (a weapon already in use)," said Menti. According the Menti, the M914 gun is under evaluation by the Army for several future platforms. The combined weapon can work together or the weapons can work independently. It maintains its own sighting system and can scan for targets while the AUDS is searching in another area. The goal is to be able to "sniff out" the controller and neutralizes the UAV. "When we link these two together you have a full-spectrum lethal, non-lethal, networked system and it is a big improvement from last spring," said Menti. "Now we’re taking it to the next step and putting together the two things because as the UAS threat gets more and more evolved really the only way you’re going to defeat it, and to become more autonomous and more capable, is with a gun or missile. “Electronic warfare eventually is not going to work anymore because there’s nothing to jam, they’re going to be autonomous. There’s no way to jam it because there’s no link to the home station no guy back there controlling it because they’re going to be automatically on waypoint navigation or cellular control." Waypoint navigation can allow the UAV to stick to a preplanned course, not requiring an operator while cellular control allows the controller to use their cellphone to operate a UAV. AUDS is designed for class 1 and class 2 UAV (very small, low and slow UAV) but they hope to be able to target even class 3 UAV fast movers at an extended range. Then as the threats get closer, the user has the ability to hand off defense operations to the gun or the electronic warfare capability - all in one platform, said Menti. "What we want to get to eventually is a panacea is multi-functional electronic warfare and that incorporates three different kind of electronic attack and electronic protection, counter IED, counter UAS, as well as command and control jammer for networks and threat voice communications," said Menti. "You can have three of those electronic warfare capabilities integrated on one platform so the commander can utilize, instead of having to coordinate three different capabilities everything is in one place. We link that to the gun - delivering overmatch against threats." The AUDS parts are all modular, meaning that pieces of it can be tailored to be used on different types of platforms depending on the need. "Parts of it could go into the MSHORAD (mobile short-range air defence) program of record or parts of it could be taken other directions," said Menti. "It all depends on how the Army wants to do that. Really we’re showing this off to all the services and other US government agencies. It’s sitting on a STRYKER right now but we can take this kit and put it on many other types of vehicles and fixed-site applications." -ends-
18/01/2018

Indra Is One of the Main Partners of Ocean2020

MADRID --- The European consortium Ocean2020, in which Indra is one of the main partners, has landed a contract worth €36 million for the largest defense R&D initiative to date backed by the European Union's new European Defense Fund. Conceived for research in technologies that reinforce situational awareness in extensive naval environments, the project is part of the EU's Preparatory Action on Defense Research (PADR), which will lay the foundation for a much more ambitious future R&D program running from 2021 to 2027. The Ocean2020 consortium is led by Leonardo with the participation of 42 partners from 15 Member States, including large companies, SMEs, universities, research centers and defense ministries in their roles as end users. The European Defense Agency selected the project in a competitive tender involving several other consortia. This initiative is the first example of joint European collaboration for research in this sector. Indra is among the three most prominently influential companies in the project. It also maintains a first-level responsibility to lead the work package that will design the entire system's architecture. Ocean2020 will address the integration of an extensive variety of unmanned platforms (fixed wing, rotary wing, surface and underwater vessels) with naval units that will exchange data with command and control centers via satellite. This environment of maximum complexity will certainly be a test for the naval version of Indra's unmanned Pelicano helicopter. Following extensive simulation work, the consortium will conduct two live demonstrations of maritime surveillance and interdiction operations. The first one will be undertaken in 2019, coordinated by the Italian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, where Indra's unmanned Pelicano aircraft will be tested to demonstrate its advanced surveillance capabilities and flexibility to interoperate with the most advanced platform systems of different countries. The second test will be coordinated by the Swedish Navy in 2020 in the Baltic Sea to check the improvements made after the first battery of exercises. All the data gleaned by the platforms involved in the demonstrations will be processed and sent to the Operations Centers of the different participating Navies and also to a prototype Joint Maritime Operations Center, which will be located in Brussels to reinforce the interoperability of future operations. Indra will lead in the development of this demonstrator with a view to laying the foundations for a future European command and strategic control capability to plan and direct EU military operations within the European Union's Global Strategy Implementation Plan on Security and Defense. The project has the backing and collaboration of Spain's Directorate General of Armament and Equipment and the Spanish Navy. The OCEAN2020 consortium also comprises the company GMV and the SME Seadrone, both Spanish entities, thus increasing the weight of Spanish participation. The OCEAN2020 consortium comprises: • Large companies: LEONARDO, Indra, SAAB, CTM, SAFRAN, IDE, QINETIQ, SKYSOFT, MBDA, IDS, GMV, TERMA, ECA, FINCANTIERI, E-GEOS and HENSOLDT. • Small and medium-sized enterprises: PTI, CYBERNETICA, BARRACUDA, SEADRONE, AUTONAUT, BLUE BEAR, PROLEXIA, SCHÖNHOFER, ANTYCIP, INFINITE VISION, INSIS, ALTUS, LUCIAD and BLACKSHAPE • Universities and research centers: CMRE, Frauhofer-IOSB, TNO, VTT, CNIT, University of Athens, IAI. • End users: Italian Navy, Lithuanian Navy, Greek Defense Ministry, Portuguese Navy and Spanish Defense Ministry. The consortium has the additional support of the ministries of defense of Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Estonia and the Netherlands. Indra is one of the world's top consulting and technology companies and a technology partner for the key operations of its customers' businesses worldwide. It is a leading worldwide provider of proprietary solutions in niche areas in Transport and Defense Markets and the absolute leader in IT in Spain and Latin America. In 2016 Indra posted a revenue of €2,709m, employed 34,000 professionals, and had a local presence in 46 countries plus sales operations in more than 140 countries. Following its acquisition of Tecnocom, Indra's combined revenue amounted to more than €3,200m in 2016 with a team of nearly 40,000 professionals. -ends-
17/01/2018

Indonesia, Turkey Team to Develop Military Drones

BANDUNG, Indonesia --- Aircraft company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) is collaborating with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to produce unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are capable of flying at a maximum height of 40,000 feet. “TAI has lengthy experience in building high-altitude UAVs. So we will collaborate with them in the project,” said PTDI president director Elfien Goentoro in Bandung on Monday. TAI has developed UAVs or drones that are used by the Turkish Military and operated at a height of 20,000 feet. They are capable of being equipped with night vision and weapons systems. Elfien said PTDI was currently developing a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV. PTDI production director Arie Wibowo added that the government wanted to ensure that collaboration between PTDI and TAI in producing lightweight UAVs take place to reduce dependency on manufacturers in Western countries. “We need an experienced firm like TAI, a firm from a Muslim country with an advanced technology in the aviation industry,” said Arie, adding that several other firms were only interested in direct selling, not technology transfer. The UAV project is projected to be completed within one to three years, Arie said, adding that PTDI and TAI also planned to develop CN-235 and N219 planes, PTDI’s two flagship products. Meanwhile, TAI CEO and president Temel Kotil expressed hope that the collaboration would result in the production of high-quality UAVs, saying that PTDI had a reputation as a major player in the Asian aerospace industry. -ends-
17/01/2018

Saab Has Key Role in EU’s Ocean 2020 Surveillance Project

Defence and security company Saab will take part in an EU funded preparatory action project called OCEAN2020. The project will demonstrate technologies for enhanced situational awareness in a naval environment using unmanned systems. OCEAN2020 came out as the winning proposal under the EU Preparatory Action on Defence Research programme. The competitive selection was conducted by the European Defence Agency and will be contracted in the coming weeks. The project consists of a consortium representing 15 EU Member States, lead by Leonardo. During 2018-2020 two live demonstrations will be arranged. The first is scheduled to be held off the Italian Mediterranean coast in 2019, with the second live demonstration in the Baltic Sea during 2020. Saab, with the support of the Swedish Navy, will coordinate the live demonstration to be held in the Baltic Sea. “There will be several manned and unmanned assets participating in each of the live demonstrations. Saab is contributing with a configuration of the 9LV naval Combat Management System, with interfaces to other participating parties and assets, including unmanned systems from Saab,” says Katarina Björklund, Vice President Group Strategy, Saab. “Various assets from several different companies and institutes will form a system of systems and together provide a Recognised Maritime Picture.” The EU intends to launch a European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) with a proposed budget of €500 million per year. The aim is to improve the competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry and to stimulate cooperation amongst Member States and industry. The Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), will test the infrastructure and the ability of the industry for such cooperation. This project is the biggest project funded by the calls announced under the EU Preparatory Action on Defence Research. Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions within military defence and civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents around the world. Through innovative, collaborative and pragmatic thinking, Saab develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing needs. -ends-
15/01/2018

Northrop Wins $173M for BACN Operations

Northrop Grumman, San Diego, California, has been awarded a $172,669,763 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). This contract provides BACN payload operation and support for payload equipment and services. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and overseas locations, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 23, 2019. Fiscal 2018 overseas contingency operation and maintenance funds in the amount of $56,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is the contracting activity (FA8726-18-C-0005). (EDITOR’S NOTE: The BACN, fitted to Northrop Grumman EQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, provides a common communications interface and relay in theater operations, especially where mountainous terrain inhibits line-of-sight communications.) -ends-
15/01/2018

French Air Force Retires Harfang Unmanned Aircraft

On Monday, January 8, 2018, a Harfang drone belonging to the 1/33 "Belfort" Drone Squadron landed for the final time on Cognac-Chateaubernard Air Base (BA 709), before its withdrawal from active service. In the presence of of General Éric Charpentier, commander of the Fighter Aircraft Air Brigade (BAAC), and in the presence of civilian authorities, airmen paid a final tribute to the Harfang drone. “Throughout this ceremony, we have been able to express the hallmarks of our Air Force: esprit de corps, teamwork, rigor and precision," General Charpentier said during his speech. Capable of remaining in flight for 24 hours at an altitude of 7000 meters, and to instantly transmit captured images to both command centers and combat forces, the innovative Harfang MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) drone system, bows out after more than ten years of service. It was the then-Experimental Drone Squadron 1/330 "Adour" at Mont-de-Marsan air base that was responsible for defining the concept of employment. The first flight of the Harfang at the Flight Test Center at Istres air base dates back to 9 September 2006 and, in February 2009, Harfang was spreading its wings in Afghan skies for the first time on operations. Since the second half of 2009, Harfangs have been stationed at Cognac. They contribute to the protection of the national territory within the framework of the special air security and internal surveillance missions during major national events such as the G8 and G20 meetings or the European Football Championship. Deployed on foreign operations, Harfang accumulated over 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan, and also took part in Operations Harmattan, Serval and later Barkhane. In total, more than 7000 flight hours were performed over the African theater before a final return home in July 2016. This system will have flown 15,440 hours of flight without any accident. The 1/33 "Belfort" drone squadron will now continue its missions with its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper. Reaper replaces Harfang The Harfang has given way to the Reaper, which opens a new chapter in the history of drones, which are now the heirs of military recognition. Capable of flying twice as fast and twice as far, the Reaper drone offers range and accuracy far superior to that of the Harfang. "The 1/33 “Belfort” drone squadron and the Reaper still have beautiful pages to write and many challenges to overcome. Tomorrow, the French Reapers will be able, once armed, to better protect friendly troops on the ground, and to deal directly with moving targets. The withdrawal of the Harfang makes space for the arrival of the six additional Reaper Block 5 drones from 2019, and the 180 airmen of the drone squadron will become at least 320 by 2020," General Charpentier said at the end of his speech. (EDITOR’S NOTE: France’s Harfang drones are leased from Airbus Defense and Space, and consist of an Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned aircraft operating with an Airbus-developed ground station and other components.) -ends-

Analysis and Background

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28/07/2017

Autonomous Military Drones: No Longer Science Fiction

The possibility of life-or-death decisions someday being taken by machines not under the direct control of humans needs to be taken seriously. Over the last few years we have seen a rapid development in the field of drone technology, with an ever-increasing degree of autonomy. While no approved autonomous drone systems are operational, as far as we know, the technology is being tested and developed. Some see the new opportunities and potential benefits of using autonomous drones, others consider the development and use of such technology as inherently immoral. Influential people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have already urged a ban on warfare using autonomous weapons or artificial intelligence. So, where do we stand, and what are the main legal and ethical issues? Towards autonomous drones As yet, there is no agreed or legal definition of the term "autonomous drones". Industry uses the “autonomy” label extensively, as it gives an impression of very modern and advanced technology. However, several nations have a more stringent definition of what should be called autonomous drones, for example, the United Kingdom describes them as “…capable of understanding higher level intent and direction” (UK MoD, The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 2011). Generally, most military and aviation authorities call unmanned aerial vehicles "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" (RPAs) to stress that they fly under the direct control of human operators. Most people would probably understand the concept of “autonomous drones” as something sophisticated, for instance, drones that can act based on their own choice of options (what is commonly defined as "system initiative" and "full autonomy" in military terminology). Such drones are programmed with a large number of alternative responses to the different challenges they may meet in performing their mission. This is not science fiction – the technology is largely developed though, to our knowledge, no approved autonomous drone systems are yet operational. The limiting factor is not the technology but rather the political will to develop or admit to having such politically sensitive technology, which would allow lethal machines to operate without being under the direct control of humans. One of the greatest challenges for the development and approval of aircraft with such technology is that it is extremely difficult to develop satisfactory validation systems, which would ensure that the technology is safe and acts like humans would. In practice, such sophisticated drones would involve programming for an incredible number of combinations of alternative courses of action, making it impossible to verify and test them to the level we are used to for manned aircraft. There are also those who think of autonomy meaning ”artificial intelligence” – systems that learn and even self-develop possible courses of action to new challenges. We have no knowledge that we are close to a breakthrough on such technology, but many fear that we actually might be. Autonomous drones – meaning advanced drones programmed with algorithms for countless human-defined courses of action to meet emerging challenges – are already being tested by a number of civilian universities and military research institutions. We see testing of “swarms of drones” (drones which follow and take tasks from other drones) that, of course, are entirely dependent on autonomous processing. We also see testing of autonomous drones that operate with manned aircraft, all from what the US Air Force calls (unmanned) "Loyal Wingman" aircraft, to the already well tested Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system of Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned TRITON aircraft. We also see the further development of unmanned systems to be dispatched from manned aircraft, to work independently or in extension of the “mother aircraft”, for instance, the recently tested PERDIX nano drones, of which 100 drones were dropped from a F-18 “mother aircraft”. Such drones would necessarily operate with a high degree of autonomy. These many developments and aspirations are well described in, for example, the US planning document USAF RPA Vector - Vision and Enabling Concepts 2013-2038 published in 2014, and other documentation and even videos of such research are widely available. The prospects of autonomous technology, be it flying drones, underwater vehicles or other lethal weapon systems, clearly bring new opportunities for military forces. In the case of flying aircraft, we have learned that there are long lead times in educating pilots and operators. One of the greatest changes that will come from the development of autonomous drones is that military forces in the (near) future could develop great fighting power in much shorter timeframes than previously. It is important to note – and many have – that creating the infrastructure and educating ground crew for operating drones is no cheaper or easier than it is to educate aircrew. However, once in place, the drone crew and operation centres would be able to operate large numbers of drones. Similarly, legacy manned aircraft would be at the centre of a local combat or intelligence system extended with drones serving, for example, in supportive roles for jamming, as weapons-delivery platforms or as a system of multi-sensor platforms. Moving beyond the past limitations of one pilot flying one aircraft or one crew flying one drone to a situation where one crew could control large amounts of drones would quite simply be groundbreaking. These perspectives for new types of high-tech weapon systems – and the fears they raise – are the background for the research we conducted on autonomous drones and weapon systems. It is almost impossible to assess when these technologies will become widespread – this will depend on the situation and the need of states. However, the technologies are becoming available and are maturing and we would argue that the difficult discussions on legal and ethical challenges should be dealt with sooner, rather than later. The legal perspectives General rules apply but it is not that simple Autonomous drones, if and when they are used during armed conflict, would be subject to the general principles and rules of the Law of Armed Conflict. In this respect, autonomous drones are not to be distinguished from any other weapons, weapon systems or weapon platforms. As with any “means of warfare”, autonomous drones must only be directed at lawful targets (military objectives and combatants) and attacks must not be expected to cause excessive collateral damage. (end of excerpt) Click here for the full story, on the NATO website. -ends-
04/05/2017

Russia Works to Restore Positions In Drone Development

Unmanned aviation is a dynamically developing industry of modern aircraft construction. Technical and technological achievements boosted the design of new systems. At present drones are engaged by many armies of the world and used in armed conflicts. Our country used to have considerable achievements in the sphere and now works to restore its positions, expert Denis Fedutinov writes in the official blog of the United Aircraft Corporation. MOSCOW --- The former Soviet Union enjoyed a major experience in drone development also in the tactical class. Until recently the Russian army had old Strizh and Reis systems developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau yet in the 1970s and the Stroi-P complex with remote controlled Pchela craft designed by Kulon Research Institute and the Yakovlev bureau in late 1980s. Unfortunately, the economic plight of the transition period in the 1990s stalled the work. The initial pace was lost as a result, the designs got obsolete, the existing technical and scientific experience in the sphere was lost and the country began to considerably lag behind leading foreign producers. The interest in drones revived in Russia in mid-2000s mostly due to the effort of private companies which initiated some steps to create mostly small-class craft. The Russian defense ministry kept displaying little interest in drones for some years. The guideline was however supported by law enforcement agencies - the interior ministry, the Federal Security Service (including the Border Service) and the emergencies ministry. In early and mid-2000s the orders of the defense ministry for the design of domestic drones were very modest. The latest system in the arsenal of the Russian military was tactical Stroi-P with remote controlled Pchela craft designed at the end of the Soviet epoch. In the 1990s the system became morally outdated. In early 2000s the Kulon Institute of the Vega Concern upgraded the complex to Stroi-PD version. The Rybinsk-based Luch Design Bureau of the Vega designed another tactical Tipchak craft. As in the case of Stroi-PD the funds were appropriated mostly for R&D. The Vega Concern and the defense ministry signed a contract for the delivery of one such complex a year which was an absolutely symbolic action. Problems caused by the absence of modern reconnaissance and surveillance drones were exposed by the 2008 situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The defense ministry tried to engage available drones but none of them was capable of fulfilling the mission. The Russian troops were actually blinded. In contrast the Georgian military efficiently engaged the drones bought from the Israeli Elbit Systems Company. As for Stroi-PD, it took off with the use of powder boosters which exposed the launch site. The flight itself could not be stealthy because of the noisy two-stroke engine. The Russian military also complained about the noisy Tipchak tactical drone designed by Vega. It was created in the Luch Design Bureau in Rybinsk. Former Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said the drone was engaged in the operation in South Ossetia and performed poorly. Besides noise problems, the quality of reconnaissance data was low because of the line TV camera which failed to produce images corresponding to modern requirements. Besides, there were also problems with friend-or-foe system. The developments around the conflict with Georgia became the threshold which made the Russian defense ministry urgently take measures to rectify the stagnant situation with modern drones for the national armed forces. Initially foreign designs were purchased, as well as available systems of domestic companies. R&D to create perspective craft was launched. The first step was the purchase of drones from Israel which is the world leader in the sphere and then an additional batch of drones was assembled in Russia. Plans to buy Israeli drones were first voiced in November 2008 by General Chief-of-Staff Nikolai Makarov. As a result, the defense ministry acquired short-range Bird-Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher Mk II of the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). According to the contract signed in 2011, the drones were assembled in Russia by the UZGA Works in Yekaterinburg under Zastava and Forpost brands correspondingly. Major modernization and localization of tactical Forpost production is being considered. The drone is to get some domestically-produced systems, including a secured communications line and state system of identification, as well as GLONASS-based navigational system, radio-technical reconnaissance and data transmission devices, digital aerial survey system and lateral visibility radar. (ends)
12/06/2015

Fly-offs for French Tactical UAV Competition Begin This Month

PARIS --- France’s defense procurement agency will begin the in-flight evaluation of competitors for the future SDT tactical UAV system later this month, allowing selection of the winner by year-end after a second-round review in the fall. The evaluations, each lasting one or two weeks, will take place at Istres air base in south-eastern France. The SDT evaluations will oppose two French companies offering foreign-designed airframes with subsystems and electronics tailored to French needs: Sagem, which is offering its Patroller, and Thales, which is offering the Watchkeeper developed by its British subsidiary, Thales UK, for the British Army. Watchkeeper will be evaluated in late June, and Patroller will follow in early July. Airbus Defence and Space, which had not been invited to bid for the Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) program, submitted an unsolicited offer earlier this year based on the Textron Systems Shadow M2 unmanned system, which it has dubbed Artemis. The company is waiting for feedback from DGA and the French army on its unsolicited offer before making a full-fledged bid. Uncertainties remain as to SDT funding The French army has not specified a number of aircraft or systems, but has defined an operational requirement, leaving industry to come up with proposals on how best to meet it. However, as it now operates 22 Sperwer tactical drones, it is likely that it will ultimately require about 30 Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) aircraft divided into four deployable systems. “The 2014-2019 Military Program Law calls for two complete and deployable SDT systems, comprising 14 operational and training aircraft, to be delivered by 2019,” a DGA spokesman told Defense-Aerospace.com June 10. He added that the competition was formally launched during the fall of 2014, and that it is proceeding as planned, but declined further comment because the competition is ongoing. There are some doubts, given the French air force’s large-scale procurement of Reaper MALE UAVs, the planned development of the Eurodrone 2020 MALE, and the availability of smaller tactical UAVs, whether the French army actually needs to spend so much money to buy large UAVs of its own. “The current worry is that the program might not be completed, as the requirements are very ambitious and demanding, and there is no officially-defined budget,” says a senior official of one of the competing companies. In fact, the SDT program was barely mentioned during May 26 parliamentary hearings on the update to the 2014-2019 defense program law. Gen. Jean-Pierre Bosser, the army chief of staff, simply said that “we expect our current interim SDTs to be replaced by an SDT system,” before moving on to other issues. All three competitors stress the high French content of their offers, the high proportion of production work that will take place in France, and the fact that their solution offers sovereign, autonomous capabilities entirely free of foreign interference, for both operation and support. Sagem, with its Sperwer, is the incumbent; its latest contract was awarded in December 2013, and funded five additional Sperwer systems for delivery in 2015. In addition to those already in service with the 61ème Régiment d’Artillerie, these UAVs will maintain French army capabilities until a replacement enters service by the end of the decade. The three competitors offer three totally different approaches to the French requirement. All three offer broadly similar sensors, but differ notably in their air vehicles, which range from Sagem’s optionally-piloted and self-deployable motor glider; Thales’ updated and “Frenchified” Hermes UAV to the much smaller, and optionally catapult-launched, Shadow M2 planned by Airbus DS. In fact, the difference in size is such that the 250 kg payload of Sagem’s Patroller is heavier than an entire Shadow air vehicle, while at 450 kg empty mass Watchkeeper is less than half as heavy as Patroller. In other words, Watchkeeper is twice as heavy as Artemis, and in turn Patroller is about twice as heavy as Watchkeeper, although they all carry similar types of payloads. Given France’s insistence on maintaining its independent deployment capability, the level of technical and operational sovereignty, and the control of the supply chain, is likely to weigh heavily during the final selection. Watchkeeper Goes French Sagem’s main competitor for the French SDT contract is Thales UK’s Watchkeeper , which was developed from the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 design and adapted to UK requirements. The British Army has ordered 13 Watchkeeper systems, for a total of 54 air vehicles, about 30 of which have been delivered to date. Watchkeeper was deployed by the British Army in Afghanistan. Several aircraft arrived at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in August 2014, and flew its first combat mission on Sept. 16, Lt Col Craig Palmer, the point man for UAVs at British Army HQ, told reporters here June 2. However, it will not attain Full Operational Capability until 2017, he said. Watchkeeper has flown about 500 hours with the British Army, Palmer said, of which 140 hours in Afghanistan and 360 hours from its base in Boscombe Down, in England. British troops prepare a Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle for a mission at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. (UK MoD photo) “Watchkeeper was designed from the outset to generate information superiority [and] its world-class I-Master radar is what is actually adding value. It’s a game-changer” compared to the Hermes, which has no radar, Palmer said. The Watchkeeper variant Thales has offered to France is equipped with mostly French subsystems, including a secure datalink, the same Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS) that Thales developed for Watchkeeper, and Thales’ own electro-optical sensors. For the time being, the French army has been offered a Selex ES surface search radar, but alternate radars can also be fitted. For the French proposal, the joint Elbit/Thales datalink fitted to UK Watchkeeper has been replaced by a Thales-developed TMA/TMG 6000 dual-mode (command and ISR data) datalink, and Thales Executive Vice-President for Telecommunications Marc Darmon says the company has all the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to this product, which is obviously significant for national sovereignty issues. “We bought the source codes and we largely re-wrote them, so we have total control of the system,” says another Thales executive, dismissing concerns that foreign companies are involved in the French Watchkeeper proposal. At present, 80% of Watchkeeper components are British-made, with another 15% coming from France and 5% from the rest of the world, according to Pierrick Lerey, strategy and marketing director for Thales’ UAV and ISR business. The company has formed a French suppliers club (equipefrancewatchkeeper.com) to update Watchkeeper’s main systems, including a new-generation electro-optical payload; a new Communications and ESM payload; a new imagery chain for full HD video; interconnection with the French military C4ISR network, a new ground station and a remote video terminal. The goal, Lerey says, is to bring French content up to at least 35% for the French program, since the Watchkeeper airframe and the (new) ground stations will continue to be built in the UK. Sagem’s Optionally-Piloted Motor Glider While its competitors opted for specific, UAV-sized airframes, Sagem preferred to use a civil-certified airframe for its Patroller, which is almost as large as a MALE drone but offers the advantage of being derived from a German motor glider, the Stemme S-15. Frederic Mazzanti, Sagem Vice-President and head of its Optronics and Defense Division, notes that this means it can self-deploy using civil airspace, that it can be used for training in unsegregated airspace with a pilot on board, and that it does not need tractors or other ground equipment because it was designed to be autonomous on the ground. Patroller’s size also means it offers lots of space for fuel and sensors, and the commercial origin of its airframe means it was designed for simple, straightforward repairs with little tooling, another plus for austere operations. A soldier shows the large sensor ball of Sagem’s Patroller UAV, a large, optionally-piloted aircraft that offers much greater range and payload than its competitors (Sagem photo) Sagem’s offer comprises triplex-redundant avionics, a new fourth-generation Euroflir 41 sensor ball with a 43-cm diameter and fitted with full HD color TV, visible and thermal imaging, and laser rangefinder and designator. Several synthetic aperture radars can be fitted, depending on the customer’s preferences, and several have already been tested. Most importantly, says Mazzanti, Patroller has the capability to operate radar and EO sensors at the same time, and also to transmit their imagery at the same time. This, he notes, is a unique capability in this category, and can multiply an ISR aircraft’s effectiveness by tracking several targets with different sensors at the same time. Most Patroller subsystems and sensors are produced by Sagem itself (EO sensor ball, navigation, datalink) while the others are French-made. Sagem also owns all property rights to the airframe, so the fact that no foreign company is involved guarantees manufacturing and operational sovereignty. With its Sperwer drones, which were operated in Afghanistan by several of the nine countries that have bought it, Sagem gained precious operational experience. The French army’s 22 Sperwers attained an availability rate of 80-85% with support from Sagem. “Our availability in terms of aircraft numbers never fell short of requirements,” Mazzanti said, adding that as operators of the S-15 have logged over 1,000 flight hours per year, there is no reason for Patroller not to attain similar levels. Sagem employs over 100 people at its French plants to build Sperwer drones and its components, and the company also has assembled a cluster of SMEs to which it subcontracts some of the work. All in all, Sagem says that French content of Patroller will attain 85% by value, as only the radar and airframe would be built overseas. With a payload of 250 kg, and a mission endurance of 30 hours, Patroller is a much larger aircraft than its competitors, but Mazzanti dismisses criticism that it may be too large for its intended mission. “It is air-transportable, it fits into a standard 20-foot container, it can land with a 20-knot crosswind and it can pull 5Gs, so its size and robustness are real operational advantages.” Outsider Airbus Teams with Textron Thales and Sagem both “offered large air vehicles that are closer to MALE size, but looking at the French army requirement we thought that a smaller drone, capable of being operated from close to the front line, would be a better match,” an Airbus official said June 9. Instead of offering one of its own UAVs, the company preferred to team with Textron Systems to prepare a bid based on a tried-and-tested UAV that more closely matches the French army requirement, and which is small enough for use at brigade or division, instead of corps, level. LEGENDE: Airbus DS has offered to “Frenchify” Textron’s Shadow to develop its Artemis UAV, which is much smaller than the two SDT competitors and doesn’t need a runway, as it can be launched from a catapult. (US Army photo) Airbus has not yet formally filed a bid, and will only announce its Artemis partnership with Textron next week at the Paris Air Show. The company has so far only submitted an unsolicited proposal to DGA, and is waiting for feedback before deciding whether to invest in a formal and comprehensive proposal. Nonetheless, company officials expect a positive response, and are encouraged by the fact that a team of DGA and French army observers will fly to Yuma, Arizona during the summer for a demonstration of the Shadow M2, which will not fly at Istres. Smaller also means cheaper, and Airbus says its offer – based on Textron Unmanned Systems’ upgraded Shadow M2 – would carry much lower acquisition and operating costs, and thus allow more intensive operations for a given budget, while its small size also facilitates transport and deployment. Shadow is operated by the US Army and Marine Corps and several foreign militaries, and over 300 air vehicles have logged over 1 million flight hours, including in combat. A competitive advantage that Airbus points out is that Shadow’s long service career, and different users, are such that the latest versions benefit from a wealth of technical and operational lessons learned. For Artemis, Airbus would modify the Shadow M2 air vehicle as little as possible to limit costs, but would replace its subsystems or adapt them to French requirements. These would include Airbus’ own Lygarion datalink, a modified ground station, and French sensor packages (radar and either electro-optical or signals intelligence) that are capable of simultaneous operation. Airbus plans to purchase full rights to the Shadow airframe and ground station, and so would control the entire system, ensuring “fully autonomous operations, as well as maximum growth potential, for the French customer,” according to a briefing document. It also says that a “significant” share of production and support – about 60% -- would take place in France, supporting French industry and jobs. In reality, a large share of production would remain in the United States, so French workshare would largely be made up by training and support, in addition to some key subsystems. -ends-
12/03/2015

UAVs: France, Germany and Italy to Launch European MALE Program

PARIS --- Three European nations will sign an agreement at the Paris air show in June to jointly fund initial studies for a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said here March 11. France, Germany and Italy will follow up by awarding a study contract in December to an industry group formed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi. The initial contract is valued at a few dozen millions of euros. Ultimately, if the program progresses as planned, the nations plan to obtain an operational reconnaissance UAV by 2025. “Our effort in the field of surveillance drones and ISR will increase with, already this year, the launch of studies of the future European drone, with Germany and Italy, that France envisions for about 2025, ,” Le Drian said here during a March 11 press conference. An Italian defense official confirmed the agreement, which has not yet been made public in Italy, however adding “we will see whether it ultimately leads to a development program.” The three companies have been calling for such a government initiative for over two years, and in May 2013 took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement calling on their governments to “launch a European MALE program.…to support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding.” The companies have a double goal: to maintain the know-how and expertise of their military aircraft design offices, now that they have mostly completed work on current fighters, and to recover the UAV business that is now going to their US competitors – France and Italy operate General Atomics Predator or Reaper UAVs, like the UK, the Netherlands has just decided to buy some while Spain is also weighing buying some. “Originally, [our] idea was to prevent the procurement of Reaper drones by European governments,” but this didn’t work, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said here during a separate March 11 press conference. “We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and we think we can develop a drone to replace the Reaper, which is an interim solution. We have asked our governments to state that an operational requirement exists, and we will be able to reply to that requirement.” In parallel, France is however continuing to boost its Reaper force, which is seeing intensive use in Africa, where it is supporting French and allied troops operating in Mali. France is due to receive a third Reaper aircraft in April, and will order a follow-on batch of three additional aircraft in August, according to a planning document released by Le Drian. “We are asking for a contract from the three governments covering initial studies,” Trappier said. “Initially, it’s a question of a few dozen million euros, although it will cost more once development is launched.” The three companies set out the details of their proposal in a second joint statement issued in June 2014, in which they proposed “a Definition Phase which has been prepared by joint development teams of Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi and which is backed by an industrial agreement on workshare and a cooperative agreement to start the MALE2020 program.” The broad lines of the industry proposal have been retained, although the initial operational capability has slipped to 2025. One of the trickier problems to be solved is the integration of the future MALE UAV into general air traffic, Trappier said. The inability to fly in unrestricted airspace is one of the reasons for which Germany canceled the EuroHawk program – a variant of Global Hawk fitted with a German sensor package – after spending several hundred million euros on its development. -ends-
23/02/2015

An Introduction to Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Source: Center for New American Security Ref: no reference Issued Feb 13, 2015 23 PDF pages In this working paper, 20YY Warfare Initiative Director Paul Scharre and Adjunct Senior Fellow Michael Horowitz discuss future military systems incorporating greater autonomy. The intent of the paper is to help clarify, as a prerequisite to examining legal, moral, ethical and policy issues, what an autonomous weapon is, how autonomy is already used, and what might be different about increased autonomy in the future. (PDF format) Full text
13/11/2014

UK: Challenges & Opportunities of Drone Security

Source: University of Birmingham Ref: No reference Issued Oct 22, 2014) 96 PDF pages Drone technology, both civil and military, under proper legal regulation, can continue to deliver 'significant benefits' for the UK's national security policy and economy in the coming decades. That is the conclusion of a new University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report which launches today. But the Government, and especially the Ministry of Defence (MoD), should do more to reach out to the public over what the Commission sees as the globally inevitable use of drones in armed conflict and in domestic surveillance. The Report finds that over the next 20 years, drones – or what the Commission and the RAF prefer to call Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – will become an integral part of Britain's aerospace capability, providing both advanced surveillance and precision weapons delivery. They can support UK forces deployed overseas, as in Afghanistan, or help prevent mass atrocities, as with the British Government's decision to deploy the RAF Reaper fleet against the Islamic State (ISIS). This decision was announced after the Report was completed but is entirely consistent with its conclusions. The Report examines the distinctive and unavoidable choices for the United Kingdom over a crucial emerging technology and sets out the under-appreciated distinction between legally constrained British practice and the US Government's cross-border counter-terrorism strikes which dominate and distort UK public debate. The Commission considers various moral arguments and concludes that the current and emerging generation of RPA pose no greater ethical challenges than those already involved in decisions to use any other type of UK military asset. The Report shows clearly that the UK has operated its armed Reapers in Afghanistan according to the same exceptionally strict Rules of Engagement (no weapon should be discharged unless there is 'zero expectation of civilian casualties') that it applies to manned aircraft. Key findings There are three main obstacles affecting the UK Government's use of drones that must be overcome: gaining public understanding and acceptance of the legal and ethical soundness of the practice; allaying fears over the potential development of LAWS; and safeguarding British airspace and the privacy of British citizens if drones are to be increasingly used for domestic surveillance and security. (PDF format) Report’s download page
11/07/2014

UK, France to Launch FCAS Demo Phase

PARIS --- Four years after they first agreed to jointly develop an unmanned combat aircraft, France and Britain will finally launch the demonstration phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) on July 15 at the Farnborough air show, the French defense ministry announced July 10. The two countries’ defense ministers will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) authorizing a 24-month, €150 million definition phase of the FCAS program, known as FCAS-Demonstration Phase, the French defense ministry announced July 10. Contracts will be awarded to industry in the autumn, and the project will officially begin in January 2015. Participating companies are Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems for airframe and systems integration; Thales and Selex ES (UK) for sensors and electronics; and Snecma and Rolls-Royce for engine and power systems. “There is agreement on a two-year concept phase…[and]….a contract could be awarded shortly,” UK Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne told reporters at the Eurosatory show here June 19, adding however that “data-sharing agreements have to be competed.” Physics and aerodynamics being what they are, it is not surprising that Dassault’s Neuron demonstrator (above) and BAE System’s Taranis demonstrator (below) should look the same at first glance. The FCAS will build on knowledge gained on both programs. (photos Dassault and BAE). BAE and Dassault have been working together for about 18 months to investigate the feasibility of joint development of FCAS, based on their separate but complementary experience in developing unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrators, either alone (BAE with its Taranis) or jointly – Dassault’s Neuron project also included Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab as well as smaller Greek and Spanish firms. A major question mark concerns the work-sharing arrangements, as both companies are obviously keen to advance and maintain their technological know-how. This is complicated, again, by their previous work on Taranis and Neuron, which sometimes led them in different directions and which may be difficult to reconcile. “We have already shared some data, but we haven’t shown everything yet,” Benoît Dussaugey, Dassault Executive Vice-President, International, told Defense-Aerospace.com June 18, adding that full disclosure will not take place before contract award. However, having successfully managed Neuron on time and on schedule with an international team of partners, Dassault does not believe this aspect will be a show-stopper. "We are confident we will find an agreement with our partners on work-share, subject to sovereign decisions by governments," Dussaugey said. The program could be opened to additional foreign partners, he adds, on two conditions: "that everyone accepts and respects our common rules, and that the respective governments finance [their share] of the entire phase." Nonetheless, BAE’s surprise and high-profile unveiling of its Taranis UCAV demonstrator in January, which it had jealously kept under wraps until then, was clearly intended to show its credentials in the lead-up to the FCAS MoU. It is probable that, as in the previous phase, BAE will remain FCAS prime contractor, while France’s defense procurement agency, Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), will act as program executive on behalf of both nations. Having successive definition and demonstration phases is considered essential for governments to define and harmonize their operational requirements, and for industry to weigh their technical feasibility and cost implications. For example, will in-flight refueling be required, and if yes using a receptacle or a boom? Where and how should radar antennas be integrated into the airframe? Will FCAS be designed to follow a pre-programmed flight path (which the French favor, as it is impervious to jamming, interception and loss of data-link), or on the contrary be remotely-piloted, as the Royal Air Force favors so as to keep a man permanently in the loop? Should the aircraft be totally silent in terms of radar, radio and IR emissions, or could it resort to jamming? Should it be single- or twin-engined? Once these basic questions are answered, processed and priced by industry, the logical follow-up would be a demonstration phase, during which the project would be further developed and prototypes or flight test aircraft built, but a decision would not be required before late 2017, which makes it very unlikely that a FCAS could fly before the end of the decade. -ends-
30/04/2014

USAF Vision & Plans for UAVs 2013-2038

Source: US Air Force Ref: no reference Issued April 04, 2014) 101 PDF pages Air Force leaders outlined what the next 25 years for remotely piloted aircraft will look like in the RPA Vector, published April 4. “The RPA Vector is the Air Force’s vision for the next 25 years for remotely-piloted aircraft,” said Col. Kenneth Callahan, the RPA capabilities division director. “It shows the current state of the program, the great advances of where we have been and the vision of where we are going.” The goal for the vector on the operational side is to continue the legacy Airmen created in the RPA field. The vector is also designed to expand upon leaps in technology and changes the Airmen have made through the early years of the program. “The Airmen have made it all about supporting the men and women on the ground,” Callahan said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for their own advances in technology to expand the program, making it a top platform.” The document gives private corporations an outlook on the capabilities the Air Force wants to have in the future, ranging from creation of new RPAs to possibilities of automated refueling systems. “There is so much more that can be done with RPAs,” said Col. Sean Harrington, an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance command and control requirements chief. “Their roles (RPAs) within the Air Force are evolving. We have been able to modify RPAs as a plug-and-play capability while looking to expand those opportunities.” In recent years, RPAs not only supported the warfighter on the ground, they also played a vital role in humanitarian missions around the world. They provided real time imagery and video after the earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan in 2011 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, according to Callahan. Then, most recently, during the California Rim Fire in August 2013, more than 160,000 acres of land were destroyed. Though this loss was significant, it was substantially decreased by the support of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, with support from an MQ-1 Predator, a remotely piloted aircraft. With this vector, technologies may be created to improve those capabilities while supporting different humanitarian efforts, allowing the Air Force to support natural disaster events more effectively and timely. The future of the Air Force’s RPA programs will be continuously evolving, to allow the Air Force to be the leader in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. “We already combine our air, space and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. “Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.” (PDF format) Full text
07/03/2014

Airbus Plots Return to UAV Market

MADRID --- Airbus Defense and Space is preparing to return to the UAV market, three years after it was forced out by the reluctance of the French and German governments to financially support any of the unmanned aircraft projects which it had developed. “We are revisiting our strategy on unmanned aerial vehicles with a vision to leadership,” Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Military Aircraft sales at Airbus Defence and Space, told Defense-Aerospace.com. “We are planning to be there, even if it takes some years.” This is a major shift in company policy, as Airbus Group decided in 2011 to freeze its UAV activities after having invested over 500 million euros in several programs without having convinced its domestic customers that they were worth supporting. Corporate strategy, at the time, was to sit out until European governments decided which programs, and which companies, they would support. This approach was not very successful, however, as Airbus was frozen out of two major market segments: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), where France preferred buying Reaper unmanned aircraft from the United States, with Germany and the Netherlands to follow shortly, and the High Altitude Lone Endurance (HALE) segment, where its EuroHawk program was abruptly cancelled by the Germen government because of cost and regulatory failings. The company was left with only smaller UAVs, a segment where competition is rife and margins small. Airbus has now changed tack because “it’s time for a proper aircraft manufacturer to get involved, to certify UAVs to civilian standards – and I mean FAR 23 and FAR 25 – so they can be used in unsegregated airspace,” Rodriguez said. At present, UAVs can only be used in segregated airspace, under military air regulations, and so are severely limited in their operational usefulness. While it has no immediate plans to resume large-scale investments in the UAV sector, Airbus DS does not see financing as a major obstacle. “We know there is a market, and if there is a market there is money,” Rodriguez said. He adds that for Airbus this is a decade-long project, which will eventually bring it a leading role: “Airbus is not here to be a subcontractor,” he says, making clear that the company is not aiming for a subordinate role in ongoing European UAV programs. While waiting for the MALE market to mature, and for the dust to settle in the combat UAV (UCAV) segment, Airbus is finalizing development of its own tactical UAV, Atlante, which is significantly smaller than the MALE and HALE segments it previously pursued. Weighing about 550 kg, Atlante has been developed in Spain, and from the outset the goal has been to fly in segregated civilian airspace, i.e. over populated areas, and it is intended to be certified for that operational environment. “The key word here is ‘certification’,” Rodriguez says, adding that, of course, “it has to offer value for money.” Atlante first flew in February 2013, Light Transport Aircraft Sector Gliding Along While its UAV strategy matures, Airbus DS continues to improve its transport aircraft product line. It recently agreed with Indonesian partner IPT Nurtanio, also known as Indonesian Aerospace, to develop a modernized version of the C-212 light twin turboprop transport, and it also is refining the performance of the C-295, its very successful medium twin. Most of the effort is on refining the airframe design, for example by adding wingtip extensions, and on increasing engine power ratings, which together add 1,000 ft. to the aircraft’s ceiling in One Engine Inoperative (OEI) conditions. The C295’s Pratt & Whitney engines are already at their power limit, so they have no more growth potential, so these refinements, together with a major upgrade of the aircraft’s avionics, will suffice to keep them competitive for years to come, says Rodriguez. The avionics upgrade will make it easier for the aircraft to operate in a civil environment. A new design may well be necessary in 10 or 15 years, he adds, but for now it is still very premature. The current line-up is quite profitable for the company, and currently accounts for average sales of about 20 aircraft per year, worth about 700-800 million euros including 100-150 million euros for related services. Over the past 10 years, Airbus has sold 157 of the 306 light/medium turboprops sold world-wide, and so has a market share of over 50%, and this should increase as additional orders will be announced this year, one of them “by Easter.” Compared to the Alenia C-27J Spartan, its direct competitor, the C-295 is simple, offers substantially lower fuel costs and “can be maintained with a hammer and a screwdriver,” Rodriguez says. Specifically, he says that maintenance costs are 35% lower, fuel consumption is 50% lower and, in terms of life-cycle costs, “it can save one million euros per plane, per year.” -ends-
03/03/2014

US Unmanned Vehicle Roadmap, FY2013-38

Source: U.S Department of Defense Ref: 14-S-0553 Issued December 26, 2013 168 PDF pages Strategy and budget realities are two aspects of the Defense Department's new Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, released Dec. 23. The report to Congress is an attempt to chart how unmanned systems fit into the defense of the nation. "The 2013 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap articulates a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across DOD," said Dyke Weatherington, the director of the unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance office at the Pentagon. "This road map establishes a technological vision for the next 25 years and outlines the actions and technologies for DOD and industry to pursue intelligently, and affordably align with this vision," he continued. Unmanned aerial vehicles have received the most press, but unmanned underwater vehicles and ground vehicles are also providing warfighters with incredible capabilities. Although unmanned vehicles have proved their worth in combat operations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, current technologies must be expanded and integrated into the sinews of the defense establishment, the report says. It also calls for unmanned systems to be programs of record in order to achieve "the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration and other key parameters needed to meet future operational requirements." (PDF format) Full text