Riding on the coat-tails of recent large French arms sales to Egypt, France’s Sagem appears to have sold its Patroller tactical UAV to the Egyptian army, which would become its first customer for this self-funded program. (Sagem photo)

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US Deploys Predator UAVs to Latvia

Old-school A-10 Warthog ground attack planes and ultra-modern Predator remotely piloted aircraft vie for airspace at Lielvarde airbase in central Latvia. Officials, military personnel and Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis converged on the newly renovated facility to view the Predator in action on its first-ever U.S. deployment in Europe. -ends-

Drones to Take Network Integration Evaluation By Swarm

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. --- In this season's Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, taking place on White Sands Missile Range, or WSMR, and Fort Bliss, Texas, coordinated units of remotely-operated and automated aircraft will be used to represent a possible threat on tomorrow's battlefields. Members of the Targets Management Office with Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation, or PEO STRI, are using off-the-shelf quad and octocopters and flying them in groups. The endeavor is part of an Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, program to study possible use, effectiveness and countermeasures for the deployment of large numbers of synchronized drone aircraft. "ATEC is our customer, they tasked us to come out and look at swarming, the variations and the payloads we can apply to this," said James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, PEO STRI. "We saw this as a threat that wasn't being addressed and ATEC agreed." While drones are seeing expanded use, with many different countries building, deploying, and selling large airplane-sized drones for military purposes, small-scale drones are still gaining a foothold, mostly due to the technical limitations involved. That technology is expected to improve, and the small-scale drone become more viable as a possible weapon, and it's that preparation for the future that is driving the swarming project. "Right now there's hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that's important," Story said. "You're controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat." Normally used by hobbyists and photographers, the quadcopter style drones don't represent a huge threat in their current state. The tiny aircraft have a flight time of only a few minutes, and have a limited payload capacity. This makes them ill suited for the surveillance missions drone aircraft are most commonly associated with, which require an aircraft that can stay aloft for long periods of time, and carry heavy zoom and thermal camera systems. The concern comes from the affordability of the off-the-shelf systems. Small military drones, custom designed for the military mission, and outfitted with the latest hardware can get quite expensive. The Tarantula Hawk Micro Air Vehicle, a VTOL capable military drone about the size of a large bucket, comes with a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with hundreds of thousands more needed to train an operator. An off-the-shelf quadcopter, like the 3-D Robotics Iris series used in the test, can be bought for around $1,000, and requires almost no training to operate. For the NIE, the off-the-shelf drones will be configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones. By conducting the flights at WSMR, the engineers can evaluate things like actual flight time and performance, as well as payload capabilities. Using data collected from the WSMR flights, the engineers hope they can increase the flight time of the drones, and make other improvements to make them more comparable to more expensive military drones. "The payloads make the difference. When you add video, the camera, the heavier battery for more flight time ... so for the smaller bird here the flight time goes from about 15 minutes, to about seven minutes of flight time," Story said. "That's part of what we're doing here is seeing if we can increase the flight time." From a military perspective, this low price tag of the off-the-shelf drones can translate to a level of disposability. A militarized version of one of these aircraft could be equipped with light weapons like small bombs they can drop, or be flown into a target and exploded like a cruise missile. Even still, the threat of a single drone of this type is fairly small, as they lack hardened systems and armor, making them easy to shoot down using even a simple sportsman's shotgun. By coordinating dozens of drones or more into a single swarm, it's theorized the tiny aircraft could overwhelm a defender, presenting far more targets then can be easily destroyed and allowing at least some weaponized drones to reach their target. "Even if you defeat one or two, if one of them slips past the guard that can pose a problem," said Michael Francis, integrated product team lead for the multirotor targets program. In preparation for the NIE mission, PEO STRI came to WSMR in September to conduct initial flight tests at Condron Army Airfield. Using flight and navigation software also available off the shelf, the engineers and technicians were able to put up to 10 drones in the air at a time, conducting basic maneuvers and formations, and return to the launch point. While simple in appearance, the ability to put 10 drones in the air and execute a flight plan is a key step in the development and analysis of swarm tactics. For the NIE, PEO STRI personnel will be deploying the drones as a kind of fire support unit. Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, flooding the airspace with drones to generate disruptive radar signatures, as well as being used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units. "We're going to be flying proving the opposing force with swarm type assets, giving them radar saturation and getting eyes on using a video downlink," Francis said. There's also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions. Drone-test missions can be a big challenge to plan and execute. Fortunately WSMR has unrestricted military airspace, allowing the testing of remotely operated or autonomous aircraft at any altitude within the range's 3,200 square miles. Certifying the systems through WSMR's flight safety office, establishing safe operations procedures was challenging, but the result is the ability to evaluate a new threat to the Soldier. "There's a lot of paperwork, for frequency and safety issues, but it's definitely worth it. This is the first time integrating into the NIE and it's a great group of guys working at Fort Bliss and White Sands that helped us along the way," Francis said. -ends-

Northrop Wins $3.2Bn for Global Hawk

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, California, has been awarded a $3,200,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Global Hawk development, modernization, retrofit, and sustainment activities for all Air Force variants. Contractor will provide management, including program, business and technical areas; engineering efforts, including configuration management, data management, reliability, availability and maintainability; and related areas of concern such as technical refresh, diminishing manufacturing sources, etc. This contract’s ordering period ends on Sept. 30, 2020. Work will be performed at San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2025. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2013 aircraft initial spares and repair parts procurement funds in the amount of $6,281,178 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the primary contracting activity, while Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, may place orders against this contract (FA8620-15-D-3009). -ends-

Dominator XP UAV Completes Maiden Flights In Mexico

YAVNE, Israel --- Aeronautics’ largest UAS, the Dominator XP, successfully completed a series of maiden flights in Mexico. The system was sold to the Mexican government via Balam security, a Mexican marketing company. The Dominator XP is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAS (MALE UAS), Based on a DA-42 twin star commercial aircraft. The Dominator XP offers high MTBF (mean time between failures) similar to the manned aircraft. The high reliability resulting significantly lower maintenance costs relative to other vehicles of its kind. Providing comprehensive ISR missions at long ranges, the Dominator XP is ideal for military as well as homeland security missions, over land and sea. Amos Mathan, Aeronautics’ CEO: “The dominator is the highlight of Aeronautics development in the recent years. Taking a civil aircraft and transforming it into UAS allows the operators to enjoy all the benefits of a large UAS in an affordable price and with exceptional reliability. This is the first contract in which we export the UAS instead of renting it to the costumer, and I have no doubt that after the implementation of the system in Mexico we will soon market the dominator to other countries as well." Asaf Zanzuri, Balam Security’s CEO: “We welcome the opportunity to market a product such as Aeronautics’ Dominator to the Mexican Government, and we are confident that it will be a highly useful tool for maintaining Mexico’s internal security. The maiden flights were successful also due to the proficiency of the costumers’ local teams, and the great cooperation between the two sides”. Aeronautics LTD, an Israel-based defense solution provider, is a world leading 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 have been delivered and successfully serve over 50 defense, military and homeland security customers on five continents. Aeronautics has the following subsidiary holdings: Commtact (100%), Zanzottera (100%), Controp (50%) and RT (51%). Aeronautics CEO is Colonel (ret.) Amos Mathan. Balam security is a Mexican company that markets and distributes advanced systems and technology to international markets, particularly Latin American. The company has extensive experience in implementing intelligence technologies as well as security services and training courses in the fields of security, HLS and Special Forces. Balam Security CEO is Asaf Zanzuri. The company representative in Israel is Alon Dayan. -ends-

US Army Tests Remote-Controlled Weapons for Base Defense

FORT BLISS, Texas --- Remotely-controlled weapons systems have drastically reduced the number of Soldiers needed for perimeter security at an expeditionary base camp here. "Every Soldier I have assigned to securing the perimeter is one I don't have that can execute support missions," said Lt. Col. Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, or CSSB, 1st Armored Division. At a conventional combat outpost, it takes four to six Soldiers doing eight- or 12-hour shifts to man one weapons system on the perimeter, he said. Using relatively new remote control weapons systems, he said, pointing to a series of unmanned, weaponized towers at the edge of the razor wire, two Soldiers inside the base camp tactical operation center can do the security work once done by 10. The 142nd CSSB is among the many Army and other military service units - along with a 14-member coalition from mostly NATO nations - participating in Network Integration Evaluation 16.1, also called an NIE. The evaluation runs from Sept. 25 to Oct. 8. In all, about 9,000 participants are evaluating new and emerging network solutions. Capt. Robert Scott, officer-in-charge of the 142nd CSSB's base defense operation center, explained how the remote-control weapons system works. The systems, including the expeditionary towers atop which they're mounted, are known as containerized weapons systems, he said. One expeditionary tower "can be put together by six Soldiers in less than an hour, with minimal training," Scott said. When it's time to pack up and leave, everything fits neatly back inside the container. While just about any gun system can be mounted on the tower, the two Scott pointed out were fitted with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a 338 Lapua sniper rifle. The weapons can be raised, lowered, rotated by 360-degrees and fired remotely, he said. A CROWS weapon system on security perimeter of an expeditionary camp; it has a camera and can be fired remotely from inside the command post. (US Army video) Scott introduced the operators who ran the systems. They sat inside a container with multiple large screens in front of them. To control the weapons, they used software called the Joint All Hazard Command Control System, which Scott said serves as the brains of the "Tower Hawk System." On their screens were views outside the perimeter, including normal video feeds as well as thermal and infrared views. Scott said that the weapons systems are even more effective at night. "Anything moving at night we see long before they see us," he said, adding that "they" refers to the bad guys. The system even differentiates between good and bad guys. Once the enemy is detected, the system plots coordinates, allowing the operator to take out the target, be it personnel or vehicles. OPERATIONAL ENERGY Heflin said the remote weapons system is one of two main things that his Soldiers are evaluating during NIE 16.1. The other is a variety of operational energy systems designed to reduce energy consumption, which, he said, translates to less fuel and water needed and fewer convoys. Maj. Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, showed some of the 11 systems being assessed. The Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or "amps micro grid," controls six 60-kilowatt generators, he said. It's a smart system that detects how much power the base camp is consuming. When there is not enough power, the system turns on more generators, he said. When they're not needed, the system automatically turns off one or more generators. The system also determines which generator has been used the most and selects a fresh one to give the used one a rest. A light comes on when service or maintenance needs to be done as well. Conventional generator setups, on the other hand, require generators to be running all the time, thereby consuming a lot more fuel, he said. Rodriguez then showed a "Water From Air System" trailer. Inside were components that acted sort of like a dehumidifier, sucking water from the outside air and converting it into water clean enough to drink, he said. The Water From Air System produces 4.5 gallons of water for each gallon of fuel it consumes, he said. It yields up to 15 gallons of water every 40 minutes, for up to 500 gallons a day. Even at 10 percent humidity, it works. Also being evaluated by Rodriguez and his team was a black-water purifier that uses bacteria to break down sewage into water clean enough to be discharged safely into the environment. One system can treat 3,500 gallons per day. The team is also evaluating a gray-water recovery system that ingests used shower and sink water and recovers 75 percent for reuse. The expeditionary base camp consisted of 15 billeting containers, each capable of housing 10 Soldiers. Each container had two latrines, a laundry area and two showers. An additional two containers housed the tactical operations center. All containers were air conditioned. Heflin said that Soldiers who've been on exercises appreciate the living conditions here. On the other hand, "I've got a few new Soldiers here who've never been in field. Next time they go to the field they'll be disappointed." "My wife back in Pennsylvania seems to think I'm on vacation, living in such cozy conditions," said Staff Sgt. James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company. -ends-

ScanEagle UAVs for Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan

-- Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded $15,180,214 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0030 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-12-G-0008) for hardware and technical data for the Scan Eagle for the government of Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (90 percent); and Pakistan (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in August 2016. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $15,180,214 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. -- Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded $9,396,512 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0009 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N68335-11-G-0009) for the procurement of one ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system for the government of Cameroon under the Foreign Military Sales program. The system consists of analog medium wave infra-red ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles, launch and recovery equipment, ground control stations, Insitu video exploitation systems and ground support equipment. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (50 percent); and Doula, Cameroon (50 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2016. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $9,396,512 are being obligated at time of award, all of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey, is the contracting activity. -- Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded $9,858,274 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0010 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N68335-11-G-0009) for the procurement of one ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system consisting of analog medium wave infra-red ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles, launch and recovery equipment, ground control stations, Insitu video exploitation systems and ground support equipment for the government of Kenya under the Foreign Military Sales program. It will also procure one Mark 4 Launcher, two full mission training devices and spares kits. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (50 percent); and Nanyuki, Kenya (50 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2016. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $9,858,274 are being obligated at time of award, all of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey, is the contracting activity. -- Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded $8,702,731 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0001 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-15-G-0014) for the procurement of spare and sustainment parts required to maintain the RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system in support of Marine expeditionary unit work-ups, deployments, and squadron readiness training. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (80 percent) , Hood River, Oregon (15 percent); and Boardman, Oregon (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in July 2016. Fiscal 2014 and 2015 aircraft procurement (Navy) funding in the amount of $8,702,731 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. -ends-

Royal Navy Looks to Future of Unmanned Aviation

The Royal Navy continues to sail ahead in the world of new technology bringing together military and industry for a two day conference on unmanned aviation. More than 150 military, experts and industry leaders converged on RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall – the home of the Royal Navy’s unmanned aircraft squadron, 700X – to look at how autonomous systems can be used on the battlefield of tomorrow. It comes a year before the Royal Navy stages its first exercise dedicated to the use of unmanned air, sea and underwater vehicles, off Scotland, in October 2016. Ahead of that the Royal Navy chose to invite the best and brightest from across the civilian and military technological world to see how the two can tap the latest kit to the advantage of the UK’s armed forces. Industry leaders at the conference included Thales, QinetiQ, Lockheed Martin and the University of Southampton and they took the opportunity to speak about the future development of unmanned air systems and highlight their areas of expertise. Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, was keen to stress the importance of technology and innovation for the Royal Navy. He said: “Developments in automation, 3D-printing, novel weapons and data processing are shaping our maritime future, and spurring UK innovation. The Royal Navy will seize this opportunity with both hands – we will fight and win 21st Century battles with 21st Century technological expertise. “As the home to the Royal Navy’s first squadron of remotely-operated aircraft, RNAS Culdrose is the Royal Navy’s centre of excellence for unmanned aerial systems and the vanguard of our journey into automation. “The Maritime Unmanned Air Systems Conference is another exciting step towards this technological future.” Over the past couple of years, the Navy has delved into the unmanned world: the ‘flying eyes’ of ScanEagle have been used extensively in the Gulf region on board Type 23 frigates; a specialist team in Portsmouth is working to develop remote-controlled and autonomous minehunting craft; and during the summer, the first 3D-printed aircraft was launched from a British warship, HMS Mersey. Prof Andy Keane of the University of Southampton, who was behind that trial on Mersey, said it was now being extended with three of the 3kg aircraft joining HMS Protector for her six-month deployment surveying the Antarctic over the austral summer. Rear Admiral Keith Blount, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers), said the world of unmanned aerial vehicles presented “an intoxicating mix of opportunities.” He added: “We have moved from a world where unmanned aircraft really were a pipe dream to those on the front line to one where they are transforming our daily business. “When I was in command of our operations in Bahrain, I watched in awe as we worked with ScanEagle. I was amazed by the potential offered by one small unmanned aircraft.” RNAS Culdrose was well placed to host the unmanned air systems conference as home to 700XNAS, the unit leading the Royal Navy into the world of unmanned flight. Captain Adrian Orchard, Commanding Officer of RNAS Culdrose, said: “700X has played a vital part in the Fleet Air Arm’s first step into the world of remotely piloted air systems, and I am proud to say that Culdrose is now considered the home of Royal Navy Maritime UAS capability. “The annual conference that we launched brought together experts to discuss the future. Working together will benefit everyone, but learning from industry leaders will help us develop our tactics and embrace new technology.” -ends-

Agreement Suggests Patroller UAV Sale to Egypt

BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT, France --- Sagem (Safran) and Egyptian manufacturer AOI-Aircraft Factory have signed an exclusive commercial and industrial collaboration agreement concerning the Patroller surveillance drone system, to address the requirements of the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. According to the terms of this agreement, AOI-Aircraft Factory could handle final assembly of Patroller drones in its Egyptian plants. The agreement also covers system support and commissioning. AOI-Aircraft Factory will develop a dedicated training center in Egypt to train staff for the operation and maintenance of Sagem's drone systems. Developed in France by Sagem, the Patroller is a versatile long-endurance tactical drone system. It features an open, modular design to handle a broad spectrum of military and security missions, while carrying a multi-sensor payload of up to 250 kg, fuselage or pod-mounted. The Patroller offers endurance of more than 20 hours, and an operating ceiling of 20,000 feet. Sagem has already conducted a flight demonstration on Patroller showing the simultaneous operation of different sensors: optronic (electro-optical) pod, radar, electronic warfare (EW) system, distress beacon detector and automatic identification system (AIS) receiver. The Patroller's design draws on ten years of experience with Sagem's Sperwer drone system to support operations in Afghanistan. Sagem, a high-tech company of Safran, holds world or European leadership positions in optronics, avionics, electronics and safety-critical software for both civil and military markets. Sagem is the No. 1 company in Europe and No. 3 worldwide for inertial navigation systems (INS) used in air, land and naval applications. It is also the world leader in helicopter flight controls and the European leader in optronics and tactical UAV systems. Operating across the globe through the Safran group, Sagem and its subsidiaries employ 7,600 people in Europe, Pacific Asia, North America and south America. Sagem is the commercial name of the company Sagem Défense Sécurité. -ends-

OSCE Looking for UAV Services In Ukraine

-- Procurement procedure Invitation to Bid (ITB) -- Launch date 11 September 2015 -- Deadline 09 October 2015 - 17:00 Europe/Vienna Summary of Requirements The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is seeking offers for an unmanned aerial vehicle turnkey project for its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. The scope of monitoring services by UAVs will include but not be limited to area patrolling along borders , point surveillance at specific border crossing points, protection of OSCE personnel, and other surveillance tasks as assigned within the scope of the mission’s mandate (e.g. gathering information on the security situation, detecting the presence of vehicles and military type equipment, monitoring the regime of cessation of the use of weapons, monitoring the prohibition on the installation or laying of mines, etc.). Click here to request bidding documents -ends-

US Army Sees Robots Pulling Soldiers Off Battlefield

WASHINGTON --- Most Americans have seen at least one war movie, where at some point a fresh-faced young private is hit with some shrapnel. From the ground, he calls out for the unit medic - another young guy, from another small town, whose quick reaction and skill just may save his life. In the near future, however, it may no longer be another Soldier, who comes running to his side. Instead, it might be an Army-operated unmanned aerial or ground vehicle, said Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Medical Corps. "We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire," Jones said. "With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties." Jones spoke at an Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored medical conference near the Pentagon, Sept. 22. "We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them," he said. "With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that." Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home. But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them. "What happens when a member of the team comes down with cellulitis or pneumonia? We have got to use telemedicine to tele-mentor them on the diagnosis and treatment," he said, adding that UAVs could be used for delivering antibiotics or blood to those units to keep them in the fight. "So you don't have to evacuate the casualties, so the team can continue its mission." SENSORS Other technology that Jones said already exists, sensors that could monitor a Soldier's vital signs, for instance, might also one day make their way to the battlefield, being worn by Soldiers full time. "Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is actually developing physiological sensors that Soldiers can wear," Jones said. "And in a few years, they will be able to field this. They can be wearing the sensors and we can just monitor them. And we can do that remotely." The general likened the sensors to something like a "Fit Bit," which Soldiers might wear now to monitor their heart rate and steps taken. "This is just a step forward that will monitor other physiological parameters," he said. "Do they need to push more water? How many calories have they consumed? There is a lot of information we can provide commanders that they can use to manage their Soldiers." The same sensors could be used to triage casualties automatically, so that those injured Soldiers whose vital signs are the worst are the ones who get rescued first. "If you see a casualty whose heart rate is way up, whose respiratory rate is way up, that may be an indication they lost a lot of blood, and need treatment now, as opposed to a casualty whose vital signs are stable and you wouldn't have to treat as quickly," he said. The same sensors can also be installed on unmanned aerial vehicles that might one day rescue Soldiers when they go down. Jones also discussed the use of "GoPro" cameras on Soldiers to document wounds and treatment that is administered. Such video, he said, can be transmitted real-time to follow-on treatment facilities where it can be used by physicians there to better understand exactly what treatment a Soldier has already received. Additionally, such footage could be used to provide feedback to the medics who performed the initial care to help them improve their skills. The Army is doing something similar now, he said, through the use of medical simulators. "[We] train combat medics in simulators and record treatment they provide and play it back for them," he said. "We show them how they entered the scene, how they surveyed their casualties, how they decided which casualty to treat or not treat. And then we talk to them about the treatment they actually provided." -ends-

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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-

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-

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

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

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-

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

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-

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

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-

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-