The US Naval Air Systems Command has released this photograph of an X-47B making a dry connect with the drogue of K-707 tanker belonging to a civilian contractor, Omega Aerial Refueling Services. (Navair photo)

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28/05/2015

German Court Dismisses Drone Complicity Case

Judge says German government not obliged to prohibit US from using Ramstein airbase for relaying drone control signalling but allows campaigners to appeal COLOGNE --- A court in Cologne has dismissed a claim brought by three Yemenis accusing the German government of complicity in the deaths of civilians for allowing the US to relay drone data via Ramstein airbase. In a groundbreaking case brought by Yemenis who lost relatives in a 2012 attack on their village, the claimants argued that it would not have been possible to fly drones over Yemen without the existence of Ramstein, a US military base in western Germany. It was the first time that a court in a country lending military or technical support for the US drone programme allowed such a case to be heard. But a judge at Cologne administrative court dismissed the case after listening to two hours of arguments from the claimants, their lawyer and lawyers for the German government. She acknowledged the “plausibility” that the base had been used to carry out drone strikes – despite the US and German governments’ repeated claims to the contrary – but said the German government had no legal grounds on which to forbid the US from using Ramstein to do so. “The German government is not obliged to prohibit the USA from using Ramstein airbase for the execution of drone attacks in Yemen,” said judge Hildeund Caspari-Wierzoch, adding that neither was it “politically realistic” to terminate the Ramstein contract with the US. In a somewhat unusual move, she allowed the claimants to appeal, meaning the case could appear before a German court again within months. (end of excerpt) Click here for the full story, on the Guardian website. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/27/court-dismisses-yemeni-claim-german-complicity-drone-killings -ends-
28/05/2015

Israeli Air Force’s UAV Squadrons Look to the Future

The IAF has been operating UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and the future holds a rich variety of developments. Two thirds of IAF's aerial force will become unmanned in the next years During Operation "Protective Edge" last summer, IAF's UAVs conducted over 20,000 flight hours, more than in any other campaign. There are two main reasons for that fact: the extended fighting time on one hand and the increase in missions unique to UAVs such as directing forces from air and intelligence gathering. The unmanned aerial vehicles are no secondary fighting force, but an inseparable part of combat. In the next years the force will continue to add new platforms to its ranks (like the "Hermes 900" that is being absorbed in the force these very days) and execute new missions which can perhaps be revealed in a decade or two. "At a long-term perspective, it is clear that the ratio between the use UAVs and manned vehicles will change dramatically", noted Brigadier General A, Head of UAV and intelligence, at a UAV conference held this week in Palmachim Airbase. The conference presented the main challenges faced by the IAF Technical Division in modern days, trends and innovations in the maintenance and debriefing field, main challenges of recent year and predicted developments on the part of the division. In addition, the conference provided a platform for the field and headquarters officials to share knowledge and ideas and presented the participants with a very wide picture of the activity in the force and in Israel's Defense Industries which displayed the main development direction in the world of UAVs. A current intelligence status was also presented by IAF Head of Intelligence Division. New UAV Monitoring Center Meanwhile inside the IAF, a new real-time UAV data analyzing and monitoring center is scheduled to be opened in the near future. The center, called "HelpDesk", will assemble current technical data regarding the UAVs in the air, allowing swift identification of problems and prevention of possible malfunctions in advance. Another technological platform that enters service in the IAF these days will be used for monitoring the condition of the vehicle body, locating cracks, bending and other structural faults. "The force is establishing itself as a central part of IDF's and IAF's operational activity", said Brigadier General A. "The progress rate in all aspects is highly impressive and keeps on challenging the IAF's Technical Division. We must preserve high maintenance standard and think ahead as far as possible. Our excellent division allows us to provide the IAF with flexible, effective and relatively inexpensive solutions, constantly improving the capabilities of the force. “This conference is a great opportunity to honor the people who work night and day to support the operational activity of the force and enhance this wonderful division". -ends-
27/05/2015

NATO to Deploy Future Global Hawk UAVs Over Baltic

NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system drones will be used in the Baltic airspace from 2017. Estonia is also one of the financial contributors to the program. NATO will use drones for reconnaissance and collection of information about the enemy and possible targets. NATO's AGS system, operated and maintained on behalf of all 28 Allies, will give commanders a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. The AGS system is being acquired by 15 Allies: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States. All Allies will contribute to the development of the AGS capability through financial contributions covering the establishment of the AGS main operating base, as well as to communications and life-cycle support of the AGS fleet. Some Allies – France and the UK have their own national drone programs in place - will replace part of their financial contribution through national surveillance systems that will be made available to NATO. The drones will enable the NATO to perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft, operating at considerable stand-off distances and in any weather or light conditions. They will be able to spend up to 24 hours in the air, reaching the maximum altitude of around 20 kilometers and with a range of over 16,000 kilometers. Using advanced radar sensors, these systems will continuously detect and track moving objects throughout observed areas and will provide radar imagery of areas of interest and stationary objects. The main operating base for drones will be located at Sigonella Air Base in Italy. Drones are legal under Estonian law, except in areas adjacent to airports. -ends-
27/05/2015

German Court to Begin Hearing In Yemen Drone Case

A Cologne court is set to begin hearing a case regarding two Yemenis who were killed in a US drone attack in 2012. The complainants allege that Germany should not allow drone attacks to be steered from its territory. On August 29, 2012 a US drone fired five rockets over Khashamir in eastern Yemen, killing Salim bin Ali Jaber and Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber. The pair were in their village to attend a wedding. The deaths sparked protests in the village, particularly since one of the dead, Salim bin Ali Jaber, was known to be a vocal opponent of al Qaeda - the purported target of US attacks. The relatives of the dead persons, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, Ahmed Saeed bin Ali Jaber and Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber have subsequently filed a case against the German government, scheduled to begin on Wednesday. The allegation against Germany "The three complainants are requesting the German government to condemn the use of the US base in Ramstein for drone attacks in Yemen," said Judge Raphael Murmann-Suchan of the administrative tribunal in Cologne, where judges will hear lawyers' arguments in a case beginning Wednesday. "The complainants allege that the airbase in Ramstein is being used, in different ways, for drone strikes in Yemen. First, the complainants claim that analysts evaluate position images of drones in Yemen and that data for controlling drones and shooting rockets is transferred from Ramstein to Yemen," Murmann-Suchan told DW. Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a complainant in the case, alleges that "without Germany" his brother-in-law and nephew would have still been alive and that the "US would not have been able to fly drones over Yemen." He claims his brother-in-law, Salim bin Ali Jaber had actually spoken to dissuade villagers from joining al Qaeda and had agreed to meet alleged members of the terror outfit to elaborate on his ideas against the terror group. "Salim had openly criticized al Qaeda shortly before his death," Faisal said in a statement on Reprieve's website, the organization that is representing his family in Cologne. Making a government accountable for drone strikes However, filing against a drone attack is not so easy. "Drone strikes per se are not illegal," said Stephen Sonnenberg, expert on international human rights and conflict resolution at Stanford Law School. "Under international law, drones are just another type of weapon...International law basically suggests that if drones are used in a context of war or an armed conflict, then the normal unchanged laws of armed conflict should apply," Sonnenberg told DW. Germany's courts are willing to entertain such complaints as the current one, Sonnenberg said, elaborating on why the case had not been filed in the US. Even so, the plaintiffs have had to use a narrow interpretation of the law to make a valid request in the courts. Lawyers fighting for the Bin Ali Jabers say that the German constitution, the Grundgesetz, and international law, oblige the German government to protect the lives and property of people and that this protection extends itself to other forms of support for drone attacks, Murmann-Suchan of the Cologne administrative tribunal explained. The Bin Ali Jabers' lawyers could use different arguments to support their claims. For example, they could argue about whether the situation in Yemen could be described as an unarmed conflict with a policing situation, Sonnenberg said, adding that a policing situation would imply a stronger use of human rights laws, which prohibit the use of force more stringently. "And that's where the lawyers will argue until they turn blue in the face, because in the US, even President Obama seems to be uncertain whether the authorization for the use of military force – which was passed after the September 11 attacks – whether those still apply to Yemen," he added. "My family is not an enemy of the USA," Faisal bin Ali Jaber urged in his statement, adding that Washington should apologize if it agrees that the drone strike was a mistake. The Bin Ali Jabers have been waiting for Washington's response since the last two years. -ends-
27/05/2015

US Army Tests Fuel Cell on Stalker UAV in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON --- Batteries are heavy and don't provide enough power to give unmanned aerial systems the long loiter time that Soldiers could benefit from. At the DOD Lab Day, May 14 at the Pentagon, Edward C. Shaffer, a researcher at Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, explained how a fuel cell, rather than a battery, is now extending the range of the Stalker XE UAS in Afghanistan. "Without the fuel cell it runs on a battery," Shaffer said. "It runs for an hour. With the fuel cell on the UAS, it'll run up to 8 hours, without recharging or landing." Fuel cells take a fuel -- such as propane -- and convert it to electricity without mechanical motion. It consumes fuel and oxygen, and produces water and carbon dioxide. Shaffer had a fuel cell with him at the Pentagon which is similar to the one used in the Stalker XE UAS. He said in Afghanistan, the fuel cell-powered UAS has been on over 80 missions. "The reason why we developed this is so we could provide that aerial system with prolonged duration, to increase the range of what they see, so they can cover their patrol, their convoy and their base. And it gives them that defensive situational awareness." The fuel cell in the Stalker XE UAS runs on propane, but Joshua P. McClure, a chemical engineer at ARL, said they hope to develop fuel cells that run on fuels like JP8, which are more common in the Army logistics inventory. He said right now, if a Soldier places JP8 into a fuel cell "it would die in a matter of minutes. The reason why is because of the sulfur impurities." "Our primary focus for the future is we are developing new types of fuel cells," Shaffer said. "We are trying to move toward logistics fuels. We want to move toward increasingly more complex fuels -- like JP8." -ends-
22/05/2015

GA to Supply 72 SAR Radars for Retrofit to Reaper UAVs

General Atomics - Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a $23,075,907 firm-fixed-price delivery order (0087) under basic ordering agreement FA8620-10-G-3038 for MQ-9 Block 20A Lynx SAR retrofit kits. Contractor will provide 72 MQ-9 Block 20A Lynx SAR retrofit kits for the MQ-9 aircraft. Work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by May 21, 2017. Fiscal 2014 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $23,075,907 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. -ends-
21/05/2015

GA Wins $72M Order for Eight MQ-9 Reaper UAVs

General Atomics - Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a fixed-price incentive firm and firm-fixed-price $72,068,072 modification (01) to order 077 on the basic ordering agreement FA8620-10-G-3038. Contractor will produce eight additional MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 production configuration aircraft. Work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2017. Fiscal 2014 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $72,068,072 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. -ends-
21/05/2015

Weaponization of Autonomous Technologies: Ethics and Social Values

Discussions on the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies most often focus on technical aspects of the weapon being considered, potential military missions and legality. This UNIDIR paper highlights some of the ethical and social issues that arise from—and underlie—this discussion. It suggests that far from being extraneous to the policy debate on the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies, ethics and social values are close to the core of this discussion. Although legal and technical discussions may produce information about possible technological trajectories, future applications and rules, they will not necessarily produce the insights, wisdom and prudence needed for sound policy that will serve national and international interests. This short paper is aimed at encouraging reflection on different ways that ethics, broadly construed to include social or cultural values, might influence consideration of the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies. Click here for the full report (14 PDF pages) on the UNIDIR website. -ends-
21/05/2015

Aeronautics to Unveil Loitering UAV At Paris Air Show

The Orbiter 1K is a loitering unmanned system, based on the structure and properties of the Orbiter 2 - Aeronautics’ Renowned unmanned aerial vehicle. This is the first time Aeronautics presents a UAV in the Loitering category. Launched from a catapult, the Orbiter 1K can fly for 2-3 hours, carrying a multi-sensor camera with day-and-night channels. The loitering system is compact and easily controlled from a personal GCS. Given a specific waypoint, the loitering Orbiter 1K can detect and destroy a moving or a stationary target. The system can also operate on the base of a given area range: the Orbiter 1K independently scans the area, detects and destroys the target – moving or stationary. In case the target wasn’t detected or in any change of plans, the system’s recovery capability allows it to return to its base camp and land safely using a parachute and an airbag. The Orbiter 1K is expected to become operational soon. Aeronautics, an Israel-based company, is a developer and manufacturer of Unmanned Aerial Systems focusing on the Mini, Tactical, and MALE UAS categories. Since its establishment in 1997, the Company's products successfully serve over 50 defense, military and homeland security customers on five continents. -ends-
20/05/2015

USAF Acts to Increase UAV Pilot Numbers, Reduce Stress

The Air Force is pursuing a range of options that will, in combination with a reset in the number of sustainable combat air patrols, help alleviate long-term stress on Remotely Piloted Aircraft crews. Initial efforts were announced by the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff earlier this year; new initiatives include incentive pay increases and bonuses for crews, directing additional funds to the mission, augmenting current crew manning, increasing the number of RPA pilot graduates, and increasing the use of Guard and Reserve Airmen as well as contractors to bring relief to a community in high demand. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the Air Force will continue to support Combatant Commanders with RPA missions while also focusing on initiatives that reduce stress on personnel and build readiness that is sustainable over time. “Balancing ISR capability across the range of military operations with finite resources remains a challenge,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “In order to best meet mission demands and sustain the force, the SECDEF has approved a CAP reset to improve RPA pilot operations tempo. We needed to do this to ensure the long-term viability of this capability.” After spending much of the last decade in surge mode, the Air Force is looking to put into place measures to bring additional relief to the high-demand remotely piloted aircraft community. “What our Remotely Piloted Aircraft professionals are doing in today’s fight and in preparing for future conflicts is simply incredible,” said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander. “RPAs fulfill critical demands in every theater 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” Operating at a surge capacity for nearly a decade has taken a toll on the force. In order to meet combatant commander requirements, and in response to SECDEF direction, the Air Force surged MQ-1/9 combat air patrols nine times in the last eight years, and has sustained those operations to date, according to Air Force officials. In April, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter approved the reset of the CAP planning guidance to reflect a drop in CAPs from 65 to 60. This initiative was designed to alleviate the state of constant surge experienced by the RPA community. Air Force leadership recognizes the stakes of not properly balancing mission demands against the needs to develop the force and the potential risk assumed in areas such as retention, training, manning, and combat capability. “Maintaining operational success and fulfilling combatant command requirements for a sustained period of time has impacted our ability to train the force and risks the health and long-term viability of the enterprise,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff. “Current demand put requirements for active-duty RPA pilots at about 300 per year. However, our current active-duty training production output is only 180 pilots per year. The new plan aims to add more than 100 additional pilot graduates per year.” To address concerns, the Air Force launched several initiatives in January 2015 to deal with the growing strain on RPA capacity and continues to explore options to fix manning challenges. In January, Secretary James took immediate action to increase RPA pilot Aviation Pay from $650 to $1,500 a month. Now the service is developing plans for a longer-term RPA pilot retention bonus for Fiscal Year 2016 release and is actively advocating for new incentives. “We’ve improved the Aviator Retention Pay bonus for traditional pilots flying RPAs, making their bonus consistent with other stressed rated officer communities,” said James. “We are also committed to improving Aviator Retention Pay bonuses for traditional pilots electing to fly RPAs.” In order to enable force development and necessary training the Air Force will make use of an array of resources. “In an effort to further improve the health of the force, we will leverage the Air Reserve Component (ARC) and contractor support to bring relief to the active-duty force. This will allow manning to be reinvested into the RPA training pipeline,” said James. Additionally, to bring relief to the active-duty force, the Air Force plans to mobilize reserve component forces to take on three combat air patrols. The service is also working on funding actions to relieve stress across the RPA enterprise. The Air Force recently moved $7.8 million into the RPA program to grow school house capacity, increase reserve component manpower augmentation days and contract some downrange and recovery efforts. “We’re redirecting funds into the RPA community and will request support from within the Department of Defense to cover additional requirements,” said James. “This is an absolutely critical mission set and investment is required to ensure its long-term viability. We’re committed to getting this right.” The service recognizes the demand for ISR and RPA pilot skills will remain. “The demand for ISR capability will always exist,” said James. “We are focused on developing and managing ISR assets to be agile and responsive enough to support global and theater requirements in a seamless manner while at the same time, managing the stress on Airmen. We are taking action to provide near-term operational relief while addressing quality of life concerns.” -ends-

Analysis and Background

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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
31/01/2014

Was Watchkeeper Grounded for 3 Months?

PARIS --- The service introduction of Watchkeeper, the tactical UAV that has been in development for the British Army since 2005, may be further delayed due to unidentified technical issues that appear to have grounded the aircraft for three months in late 2013. The Watchkeeper program apparently logged no flight activity between mid-September and mid-January, according to data provided by Thales, the program’s main contractor, which showed that the number of total flight hours and total sorties barely changed between Sept. 16, 2013 and Jan 12, 2014. As of Sept. 16, Watchkeeper had flown “almost 600 sorties, for a total of about 1,000 flight hours,” a Thales spokesperson told Defense-Aerospace.com in an e-mail follow-up to an interview at the DSEi show in London. On Jan. 20, responding to a follow-up query, the Thales spokesperson said that “Tests are progressing nominally, as planned. We have now passed 600 sorties and are nearing 1,000 flight hours.” These figures show no flight activity between mid-September and mid-January. Asked to explain this apparent discrepancy, the Thales spokesperson had not responded by our deadline, three days later. “The delivery of Watchkeeper equipment is on track and trials are continuing with over 550 hours flying having been completed,” the UK Ministry of Defence in a Jan 31 e-mail statement. Note this is about half the flight hour figure provided by Thales. “…the Release to Service process is taking longer than expected,” the MoD statement continued, adding that “The last flight was last week, so it’s incorrect to say that the assets are still grounded.” This unannounced grounding may be one reason why the French Ministry of Defense is back-pedaling on earlier promises to consider buying the Watchkeeper, after an inconclusive evaluation between April and July 2013 by the French army. The evaluation included “several dozen flight hours” from Istres, the French air force’s flight test center in south-eastern France, a French MoD spokesman said Jan. 31. The evaluation report has not been completed, and no date has been set, he added. The final communiqué of today’s Anglo-French summit meeting, for the first time since November 2010, makes no mention of the Watchkeeper, although it was mentioned in passing by French President François Hollande during the summit press conference. Thales’ figures on Watchkeeper flight activities have also been provided to other news outlets. A Jan. 16 article by FlightGlobal quotes Nick Miller, Thales UK’s business director for ISTAR and UAV systems, as saying that “Watchkeeper aircraft have now completed more than 600 flights, exceeding a combined 950 flight hours.” Aviation Week had posted an article the previous day, Jan. 15, in which it reported that “Thales U.K….is continuing flight trials and supports army training(Emphasis added—Ed.). However, it is difficult to understand how training can take place without an increase in the number of sorties and flight hours. The above article says “Watchkeeper may début in spring,” echoing a similar story published Sept. 12, 2013 in which Aviation Week said Thales UK “is hopeful that …Watchkeeper…will be certified by the end of the year.” This did not happen. This same Aviation Week Sept. 12 story said that the Watchkeeper “fleet has flown more than 1,000 hr. over 600 flights” – a higher figure than FlightGlobal reported on Jan. 16, four months later. The discrepancies in the figures provided to at least three trade publications clearly contradict company statements that Watchkeeper flight operations are “nominal” and “are continuing,” as they show no flight activity has been logged since September. The obvious conclusion is that flight activities have been curtailed, either by a technical grounding or because of administrative blockages. In either case, Watchkeeper – which is already over three years late -- has clearly hit new obstacles that will further delay its operational clearance by the UK Ministry of Defence’s new Military Aviation Authority (MAA). Watchkeeper is being developed by UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), a joint venture between Israel’s Elbit Systems (51% share) and Thales UK, the British unit of France’s Thales, under a contract awarded in 2005. UAV Engines Ltd, which builds Watchkeeper’s engine in the UK, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems. Originally valued at £700 million, the cost has escalated to over £850 million, and service introduction has been delayed by at least three years. The British Army is due to receive a total of 54 Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft and 15 ground stations. By late 2013, 26 aircraft and 14 ground stations had been delivered, according to published reports. -ends-
30/01/2014

France, UK to Launch Anti-ship Missile, UAV Projects

PARIS --- France and Britain are due to sign several defense-related agreements during their short Jan. 31 summit meeting at Brize Norton, England, including one to launch joint development of a next-generation anti-ship missile and another to fund a two-year feasibility study for a joint combat UAV. British and French officials have widely briefed the media in advance of the summit to obtain the editorial coverage that both countries’ leaders – British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande – need to bolster their domestic standing. The briefings also seek to highlight that, after several fruitless summits in the past three years, the two countries are finally making progress on the joint defense projects to which they subscribed in the 2010 Lancaster House treaty. The two countries are expected to launch the long-delayed development of a lightweight helicopter-launched anti-ship guided missile known as FASGW(H) in the UK and ANL (Anti-Navires Léger) in France. Originally due to be launched in 2011, this program is now expected to be funded under a €500 million (or £500 million – accounts differ) contract to be awarded to MBDA, a joint subsidiary of BAE Systems, Airbus Defense & Space and Italy’s Finmeccanica. The Financial Times reported Jan 29 that the cost would be shared evenly, but that Britain will provide initial funding because it needs the missile earlier. It is not expected that the summit will launch other missile projects also long in the pipeline, such as the joint upgrade of the Scalp/Storm Shadow cruise missile and a joint technology roadmap for short range air defence technologies. UCAV feasibility study The second major decision that could be announced Jan. 31, sources say, is the launch of a two-year feasibility study for a joint Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), with a contract to be awarded jointly to BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation, which last year completed a 15-month risk reduction study. This project has barely inched forward since 2010, when it was first mooted, but Rolls-Royce and Safran have agreed to cooperate on the aircraft’s engines, and Thales and Selex ES on its electronics, Defense News reported Jan. 28, such is the eagerness to launch a funded program before design know-how evaporates. The two governments must also decide whether, and at what stage, to open this project to other European partners, such as Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab and the Airbus Group (formerly EADS), which have developed or are studying their own aircraft but lack government funding. Little concrete progress is expected at the summit, however, on other unmanned aircraft projects under discussion. One is France’s possible buy of the Watchkeeper tactical drone, developed for the British Army by Thales UK, and which is running several years late. Although France has said several times that it was interested in buying it and allow “cooperation on technical, support, operational and development of doctrine and concepts,” it seems that its operational evaluation by the French Army’s 61st Artillery Regiment was not conclusively positive. Another project is the long-running saga of a European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV intended to ultimately replace the US-supplied Predator UAVs currently operated by both countries, as well as Italy, and soon to be bought by Germany and the Netherlands. To date, this project has received little in the way of government funding, and it is this lack of serious money, combined with the lack of clear military requirements, that industry says is curtailing its ability to address Europe’s UAV needs. Minehunters and armored vehicles The two countries are also expected to launch the joint development of an autonomous underwater vehicle to replace the remote-controlled robots used by their navies’ minehunters. Finally, France may announce it will loan about 20 VBCI wheeled combat vehicles to the British Army, which currently lacks a vehicle of this kind, the Paris daily “Les Echos” reported Jan. 27. This is intended to allow the British, who are said to have been impressed by the VBCI’s performance in Afghanistan and Mali, to evaluate it before they begin procurement of similar heavy wheeled armored vehicles in 2017. -ends-
27/01/2014

US Navy’s Mabus on Unmanned Naval Ops

This past summer, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert and I stood on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, at sea off the coast of Virginia. We watched as the X-47B unmanned aircraft, a sixty-two foot wingspan demonstrator, made its first arrested landing onboard an aircraft carrier. It was a historic moment for naval aviation. Every Naval Aviator knows landing on an aircraft carrier is about the most difficult thing you can do as a pilot. Recovering the X-47B safely aboard the ship, with the autonomous system landing independent of its human operators, was a vital step toward our future vision of a Carrier Air Wing. In less than a decade, this future air wing will be made up of today’s F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters, MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, and advanced future platforms like the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and our next generation unmanned carrier aircraft. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are America’s “Away Team.” We provide presence. We are where it counts when it counts, not just at the right time but all the time. We give the President and Combatant Commanders the flexibility they need to respond to any challenge. The platforms we buy to make up our fleet are an important part of our future. Unmanned systems are vital to our ability to be present; they lessen the risk to our Sailors and Marines and allow us to conduct missions that are longer, go farther, and take us beyond the physical limits of pilots and crews. Launching and recovering unmanned aircraft as large and capable as our manned fighters from the rolling decks of aircraft carriers is just one element of the future of maritime presence and naval warfare. Helos Leading the Way While we are designing and testing our fixed wing unmanned aircraft, some of our helicopter squadrons have been operating unmanned systems – both in combat and maritime security operations – for years. The MQ-8B Fire Scout is our current unmanned helicopter system. It has been conducting missions including patrolling against illicit trafficking in the Pacific, counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya. Since the Fire Scout’s first deployments in 2009 our ships, helicopter squadrons, and Marine Corps units have been working together to refine and expand how we use the platform. The next generation Fire Scout, the MQ-8C with its greater payload and longer range, made its first flight last year. It will deploy in support of our Littoral Combat Ships and Special Operations units. In the past year, we have stood up our first two Fire Scout squadrons in San Diego to train and organize the operators and maintainers who will work on these aircraft. Meanwhile the Marines continue to experiment and operate with the Cargo Resupply Unmanned Aerial System (CRUAS) which carries cargo to patrol bases and forward operating bases in combat areas such as Afghanistan, eliminating the need for dangerous convoys and potentially saving lives. Under, On & Over the Sea The future of unmanned systems in the Navy and Marine Corps is focused on incorporating our people on manned platforms with unmanned systems to create an integrated force. A good example of this integration is the Mine Countermeasures Mission Module we are testing for the Littoral Combat Ship. This module includes a small remotely controlled submarine which tows a mine-hunting sonar to detect the mines, paired with a manned Seahawk helicopter which neutralizes the mines once they are found. The development team is also working with unmanned surface and air systems for autonomous mine sweeping, shallow water mine interdiction, and beach mine clearance. Nobody can argue with the idea that when clearing mines we should keep our Sailors out of the mine fields and let our unmanned systems take those risks. Last spring we had the first test flight of the MQ-4 Triton unmanned maritime patrol aircraft, and earlier this month it passed the half-way point in its flight testing. Its 131-foot wingspan – 30 feet wider than the manned P-3C Orion maritime patrol planes we have flown for decades – makes it today’s largest unmanned platform. Triton’s long, slender wings allow it to stay in the air with its sensors for a day at time, providing persistent maritime coverage to the warfighter. Combined with the aircrews and operators aboard our new P-8 Poseidon manned maritime patrol aircraft, Triton will identify and track targets as necessary, ensuring that the fleet has a complete picture of what is happening at sea. The Future Airwing The X-47B is the culmination of an experimental program to prove that unmanned systems can launch and recover from the aircraft carrier. The program that follows this demonstrator will radically change the way presence and combat power is delivered as an integral part of the future carrier air wing. Known by the acronym UCLASS, for Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, it will conduct its missions over very long periods of time and at extreme distances while contributing to a wide variety of missions. It will make the carrier strike group more lethal, effective, and survivable. The end state is an autonomous aircraft capable of precision strike in a contested environment, and it is expected to grow and expand its missions so that it is capable of extended range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, tanking, and maritime domain awareness. It will be a warfighting machine that complements and enhances the capabilities already resident in our carrier strike groups. Operating these platforms independently of a pilot, and with growing autonomy, greatly increases the possibilities for what we can do with them in the future. Unmanned carrier aircraft don’t require flights to maintain pilot proficiency; the operators can maintain their skills in the simulator. The planes will be employed only for operational missions, saving fuel costs and extending the service life of the aircraft. They also create the opportunity to advance new ways to use our aircraft, like developing new concepts for swarm tactics. We are finalizing the requirements that will lead to a design for the UCLASS. We aren’t building them yet. We want to ensure we get the requirements and design set right before we start production in order to avoid the mistakes and cost overruns which have plagued some past programs. Meanwhile our other unmanned systems like the Fire Scout and Triton continue their success. The Future of Naval Operations Across the entire spectrum of military operations, an integrated force of manned and unmanned platforms is the future. The X-47B’s arrested landing aboard USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH showed that the Navy and Marine Corps are riding the bow wave of technological advances to create this 21st century force. But it is our Sailors and Marines that will provide the innovative thinking and develop the new ideas that are crucial to our success. The unmanned systems and platforms we are developing today, and our integrated manned and unmanned employment methods, will become a central part of the Navy and Marine Corps of tomorrow. They will help ensure we continue to be the most powerful expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known. About the author: Ray Mabus is the 75th Secretary of the Navy, leading the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. He has served as Governor of the State of Mississippi, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and as a surface warfare officer aboard USS Little Rock (CLG-4). -ends-