Dstl invests £1.5m in CBR robotics and AI research

The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is exploring the potential for cutting-edge autonomous robotic solutions to detect life-threatening chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards.

The current wide-area capability is based on specially adapted armoured Fuchs vehicles. For several years Dstl has been researching the potential of using autonomy and unmanned systems to survey areas for CBR materials. This new investment with industry will help develop a concept demonstrator to be used in wide-area experimental trials.

Dstl project lead Ian Napier said: “There is an understandable desire to remove the need for people to enter into hazardous areas, even if they are inside a protected vehicle. Recent developments in autonomous ground and air vehicles offer up some exciting opportunities to develop autonomy for CBR work. However, before making such a step-change in our approach, we need to fully understand the variety of potential CBR scenarios and the tasks that may need to be undertaken by autonomous systems.”

Dstl has contracted Horiba Mira to adapt a Viking 6x6 uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) and integrate a suite of chemical and radiological sensors supplied by Dstl. Making good use of open architectures should allow the development of a CBR sensor suite on a standard ‘pallet’, which could then be mounted onto the appropriate platform as and when required.

This new contract will now also fund the development of autonomy algorithms to allow the CBR sensor outputs to help drive the behaviour of the UGV, to detect and map areas of chemical or radiological hazards. One of the Vikings will undergo minor modifications to allow it to carry and interface with the CBR sensor pallet.


US demands second F-35 pilot breathing system problems investigation

A subpanel of the US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) wants the Pentagon to take a second look at the F-35 jet’s pilot breathing systems, which may be contributing to physiological episodes where pilots reported oxygen deprivation.

Last week, the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee released its portion of the fiscal 2022 defence policy bill, which contained a provision requiring the Defence Department to investigate and implement corrective actions for the F-35′s pilot breathing system. Although the FY21 version of the National Defence Authorisation Act required the Pentagon to assess the root causes of physiological episodes occurring inside the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft, a report by NASA published in November 2020 has raised further concerns that the F-35′s breathing systems may not meet pilot needs, said a congressional aide who spoke with reporters July 28.

The NASA study — which used interviews with pilots and data from two F-35s during ground tests — found F-35 does not continually supply the amount of oxygen needed by pilots, forcing operators to change their breathing rates to compensate.

“Pilots who have suffered [physiological episodes] in the F-35 … fault the breathing system for acute and chronic health conditions that have caused impairment for days, weeks, months, or longer,” the study stated.


Next-generation sea mine disposal reduces risk

Sea mine disposal could be transformed using an innovative technique that is undergoing research by Dstl scientists.

The concept has received funding worth £440,000 from the Defence Innovation Unit to develop a working prototype and aims to provide a valuable capability for the Royal Navy, enabling minefields to be cleared more efficiently and quickly. Clearing minefields quicker will enhance freedom of operation without increasing risks to the disposal team.

Delivered underwater by a remotely operated vehicle, Dstl’s Pulse Dart comprises a metal spike and tube. The spike penetrates the hard outer shell of the ordnance, where an electrical charge is applied to initiate the ordnance with the operative a safe distance away.

Mine disposal is an extremely hazardous operation and is often undertaken in extremely poor visibility underwater. The Pulse Dart will remove the need for operator filled stores produced on-site, reducing handling and proximity to explosives.

The Pulse Dart can reduce overall costs compared to current explosive disposal technology. As the Pulse Dart contains no explosive, moving and storing can be undertaken with minimal risk.


US Cyber Command touts acquisition advancements

During a forum to present capability needs to industry, US Cyber Command leaders gave their take on how the operation has improved its acquisition practices and structures over the last few years.

Congress capped the command’s buying power at $75m, under a so-called ‘crawl, walk, run approach’ to determine whether the command could execute the authority. In the last annual defence policy law, Congress lifted that cap, and the command is hopeful it can mature further to procure necessary capabilities in a dynamic environment.

“We also wanted to request that we eliminate the procurement ceiling altogether, so the command has the flexibility and the agility to respond to the procurement needs the command has based on the operational requirement,” command acquisition executive Sharothi Pikar told over 300 attendees at the Cyber Command virtual industry forum on 27 July.

Command and control

The Australian government has shortlisted Lockheed Martin Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia to oversee the delivery of the Joint Air Battle Management System and provide the core architecture of Defence’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defence capability.

“The government's $2.7bn ($1.99bn) investment in a sovereign Joint Air Battle Management System will deliver a critical capability to defend against increasingly advanced air and missile threats,” Australia’s Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said in a media release.

Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand chief executive Joe North said: “Today’s announcement marks the next step of Air 6500/1 to work in partnership with the Australian Defence Force and industry partners to support the Royal Australian Air Force’s vision to transform into a next-generation force, through delivering a sovereign, highly-advanced JABMs system to protect Australia’s security.”

Northrop Grumman Asia Pacific managing director Christine Zeitz said: “We will employ a highly collaborative ‘JABMS Enterprise’ approach that will bring together capabilities developed by Australia’s defence industry, including active and passive sensors, intelligent agents, data fusion and processing, through a solution architecture that is flexible, open, modular, secure and adaptable by design.”


BAE Systems wins contract for next-generation LRASM missile seekers

BAE Systems has received a $117 million contract from Lockheed Martin to produce next-generation missile seekers for (LRASM).

The seeker technology enables LRASM to detect and engage specific maritime targets in contested environments with less dependence on traditional navigation systems. The next-generation seeker design reduces overall missile costs.

BAE Systems is producing next-generation seekers for Lots 4 and 5 that are more capable and easier to produce, with less-complicated manufacturing processes.


BAE Systems wins contract for next-generation LRASM missile seekers

BAE Systems has received a $117 million contract from Lockheed Martin to produce next-generation missile seekers for (LRASM).

The seeker technology enables LRASM to detect and engage specific maritime targets in contested environments with less dependence on traditional navigation systems. The next-generation seeker design reduces overall missile costs.

BAE Systems is producing next-generation seekers for Lots 4 and 5 that are more capable and easier to produce, with less-complicated manufacturing processes.

Rheinmetall wins Dutch Army Fennek aiming device contract

Rheinmetall has announced the addition of a new gun carriage-adaptable aiming device to in-service Fennek wheeled light-armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

The order is for 246 devices and is valued at €36m. It was awarded to Rheinmetall Electronics through Fennek vehicles’ general contractor Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

The device, known as Lafettenadaptierbares Zielgerät 400 (LaZ400), will replace the Fennek ARV’s existing thermal imaging system, this improving Fennek’s reconnaissance and target engagement capabilities.

Rheinmetall will fabricate the devices at its electronics plant in Ismaning, in the German state of Bavaria and is expected to deliver them by 2027.

BAAINBw contracts Saab to upgrade German Navy’s F123 frigates

The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has contracted Saab to upgrade the German Navy’s F123 frigates.

Under the order, Saab will deliver and integrate new naval radars and fire control directors, as well as provide a new combat management system for the Brandenburg-class F123 frigates. It includes 9LV Combat Management System, Sea Giraffe 4A and Sea Giraffe 1X radars, Ceros 200 fire control director and third-party systems, including identification, friend or foe (IFF) capability.

The contract also provides for a performance-based logistics package to support the operational capabilities of the frigates.

The value of the latest order stands at approximately $536.68m (Skr4.6bn).

Hensoldt to modernise German Armed Forces’ airspace surveillance

The contract will also see the sensor solutions provider develop ballistic missile defence capabilities.

The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has contracted Hensoldt to deliver new radars to the German Armed Forces.

BAAINBw placed the order for the delivery and installation of four long-range radars under the Hughes Air Defence Radar Nachfolgesystem (HADR NF) programme. To deliver this capability, Hensoldt has entered a cooperation agreement on ballistic missile defence (BMD) capable long-range radars with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary ELTA Systems.

Under the contract, Hensoldt and IAI will modernise airspace surveillance for the German military and develop ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities.

BAE Systems to upgrade F-35 countermeasures

Lockheed Martin has awarded BAE Systems a $93m, five-year Undefinitised Contract Action to provide critical sustainment support for the AN/ASQ-239 electronic warfare (EW) countermeasure system.

The contract will ensure the mission readiness of the growing global fleet of F-35 aircraft.

“We have a strong track record of sustaining electronic warfare systems to support our customers’ mission readiness,” BAE Systems F-35 sustainment programme director Rob Dykemaat.

“This contract lays critical sustainment groundwork, establishing and optimising the infrastructure to support the aircraft.”

Under the contract, BAE Systems will provide software maintenance, depot test equipment support, logistics analysis, obsolescence monitoring, technical field support, and reachback support for the F-35 US Reprogramming Laboratory.

USAF invests in hypersonic aircraft

The US Air Force has invested $60m in US-based Aerospace company Hermeus to accelerate the commercial development of hypersonic aircraft and propulsion systems.

The company is developing a hypersonic aircraft capable of flying at five times the speed of sound. At this speed, a flight from New York to Paris would only take 90 minutes.

The contract is being funded by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, the Air Force Research Laboratory and various venture capital sources.

The contract forms part of the ‘Vector Initiative’ to bolster the resurgence of high-speed passenger travel.

New boots for Canadian Armed Forces

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces mill receive new general-purpose combat boots and nylon laces made by manufacturer Royer of Lac-Drolet following a contract worth nearly CAD7m.

The contract, issued by Public Services and Procurement Canada, will see the delivery of an additional 40,000 pairs of boots and 100,000 pairs of laces to Canadian Armed Forces supply depots in Edmonton, Alberta, and Montréal, Quebec, by February 2023.

The general‑purpose boots are designed to provide enhanced foot protection and comfort for Canadian troops during operations conducted in ambient temperatures ranging from 0°C to 25°C.

The contract for the general-purpose combat boots is expected to maintain 25 Canadian jobs and create five new jobs.


US Navy plans to use UAS for cargo transport

The US Navy is assessing the feasibility of using uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) for cargo transport between vessels or from ship to shore. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division has acquired a logistics UAS prototype to demonstrate the transfer of cargo over long ranges. The vehicle will be tested and upgraded for military sealift requirements.

Naval Group delivers first Suffren-class submarine to French Navy 

French shipbuilder Naval Group has delivered the first of six Suffren-class nuclear attack submarines for the French Navy. This delivery marks an important milestone in the Barracuda programme, which upgrades the submarine component of France's nuclear deterrent.

Iran unveils domestic ballistic missile launcher

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has reportedly unveiled a domestically built ballistic missile launching system. Tasnim news agency reported that the air force manufactured thdine automated system, which is used for launching long-range ballistic missiles.


Australian Navy tests robots for counter-disaster operation

The Royal Australian Navy has tested robots in a simulated counter-disaster operation. As part of exercise Autonomous Warrior Genesis, the navy tested uncrewed land, air and sea vehicles in response to a simulated humanitarian relief scenario.

US and Japan complete exercise Keen Sword 21 

US Indo-Pacific Command units and the Japan Self-Defense Force have completed exercise Keen Sword 21, a joint-bilateral field training exercise in Japan. It involved maritime and air operations, amphibious landings, missile defence exercises, resupply, cyber and space operations.

Royal Air Force concludes Exercise Crimson Warrior 

The Royal Air Force has concluded Exercise Crimson Warrior, a three-week training operation involving fast jets, helicopters and unmanned air systems with involvement from the British Army, US Air Force and US Marines. Exercise Crimson Warrior has been adapted from Cobra Warrior with missiodinns being added to support the F-35B and helicopters that form part of the Carrier Strike Group Air Wing.

In brief

Fabri-Kal launches Recycleware Containers to expand sustainability

Food packaging solutions provider Fabri-Kal has expanded its sustainable product offerings with the launch of its new Recycleware Containers. Manufactured in the US, the products contain a minimum of 20-50% post-consumer recycled PET material and are recyclable.

Burger King and TerraCycle’s Loop to pilot new reusable packaging 

Fast-food chain Burger King has partnered with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to pilot new reusable packaging. The partnership is part of the brand’s Restaurant Brands for Good framework to help reduce packaging waste.

Stora Enso launches take-away bowls for food service packaging 

Pulp and paper manufacturer Stora Enso has partnered with wholesale company Tingstad to market its new food service take-away bowls, PureFiber. The packaging is designed to replace plastic on-the-go food packaging. It is free from plastic and PFAS.

H&M presents new Looop garment-to-garment recycling system

Swedish clothing-retail company H&M is introducing a garment-to-garment recycling system that helps transform old textiles into new ones. Known as Looop, the container-sized machine promotes circularity in fashion and keeps unwanted garments from turning into waste.