12 November 2019

India to fund startups for increased local defence sector development

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched the third phase of the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) during an event to seek innovative ideas for the armed forces.

DISC was first launched in August last year, designed to support startups to develop prototypes to meet the technological needs of the Indian Military.

It is part of the government’s Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative that seeks to harness local small businesses and academia to support the ‘Make in India’ programme in the defence domain.

At the event on 11 November, two startups, North Street Cooling Towers and Chipspirit Technologies, were awarded funding to further develop their ideas.

To increase local work in the defence sector, the government has set a target of funding 250 startups over the next five years. The idea is to nurture ideas to achieve at least 50 ‘tangible’ innovations in this period.

The MoD intends to set aside Rs5bn ($70.06m) to foster technology development under the iDEX initiative.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called upon the public and private sector to work in cohesion in the area of research, development and manufacturing.

Singh said: “India is leading in the fields of technology and peacekeeping throughout the world. As a major power, it is equally important for us to strengthen our defence manufacturing and research and development.

12 November 2019

US Marine Corps seeks unmanned breaching vehicle

The US Marine Corps is developing an unmanned system capable of clearing underwater threats that will replace the in-service Assault Breacher Vehicle, a modified version of the M1 Abrams tank.

The new unmanned system, known as the Crawling Remotely Operated Amphibious Breacher (CRAB), will be a submersible platform with a mine flail, tiller and rake designed to pave the way for amphibious forces.

Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) Captain Anthony Molnar said: “In theory, the CRAB system will breach through man-made obstacles in the surf zone.”

MCSC added that the vehicle will deploy from littoral utility craft and travel along the seafloor to de-mine and remove threats along the route from ship to shore.

The project will deliver an ‘expendable’ vehicle that keeps Marines out of harm’s way as they approach the shoreline. Molnar added the vehicle will “save lives and reduce costs for the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps”.

The Marine Corps has submitted a proposal for the CRAB system to be designated as a ‘rapid innovation fund topic’; if successful a prototype unit will be produced over a two-year period.

The Marine Corps said the project falls in line with wider push for enhanced mine countermeasures and exploration of unmanned systems outlined in the ‘Commandant’s Planning Guidance’ document by Marine Corps General David Berger.

Berger wrote: “I encourage experimentation with lethal long-range unmanned systems capable of travelling 200 nautical miles, penetrating into the adversary enemy threat ring, and crossing the shoreline – causing the adversary to allocate resources to eliminate the threat, create dilemmas, and further create opportunities for fleet manoeuvre. We cannot wait to identify solutions to our mine  countermeasure needs, and must make this a priority for our future force development efforts.”

CRAB will achieve both of these goals by providing an unmanned mine countermeasure platform.

MCSC’s Mobility and Counter Mobility program lead Michael Poe said: “The CRAB will support combat engineers and explosive ordnance disposal Marines by providing a remote or autonomous explosive and nonexplosive obstacle reduction capability within the very shallow water, surf zone and the beach. It will enable the Marine Corps to provide assured littoral mobility to the Naval Force in support of EABO [Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations].”

Molnar added: “The CRAB system is important because currently, the Naval Force can only breach in the surf zone with significant risk to mission or personnel.”

Currently, the Marine Corps does not operate a vehicle specifically designed to clear the near-shore surf zone of threats. Using the Assault Breacher Vehicle is effective, but not without risk. Molnar added: “This [the CRAB system] would alleviate that by having an inexpensive and expendable piece of equipment going through there.”

12 November 2019

GA-ASI to demo MQ-9 Guardian’s maritime surveillance capabilities

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) will demonstrate the maritime surveillance capabilities of its MQ-9 Guardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) for European nations next month.

GA-ASI is planning to undertake a series of demonstration flights using a GA-ASI MQ-9 Guardian RPA and a detect and avoid (DAA) system.

The company is working with the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) to conduct flights from the Greek airbase of Larissa.

The DAA system is designed to provide the RPA with a collision avoidance capability in civil airspace.

GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said: “We appreciate the HAF’s support in helping showcase the maritime surveillance and civil airspace integration capabilities of our unmanned aircraft in Europe. The demand for affordable, long-endurance airborne surveillance of the seas surrounding Europe is growing.”

The unmanned system that will participate in the demonstration is based on the MQ-9 operated by the US Department of Homeland Security for maritime surveillance operation.

The MQ-9’s DAA system features the Due Regard Radar (DRR), which is an air-to-air radar containing a two-panel active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna and a radar electronics assembly (REA).

The Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) are responsible for the detection of aircraft.

GA-ASI stated that the demonstration will also include the Raytheon SeaVue multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode.

The RPA will also be equipped with an automatic identification system (AIS) receiver and optical and infrared cameras.

The sensor suite can help aircraft detect surface vessels over a vast maritime area.

GA-ASI has selected SES to provide geostationary orbit satellite connectivity for the MQ-9.

12 November 2019

Royal Marines refine skills during desert war games with USMC

The British Royal Marines have practiced war games with the US Marine Corps (USMC) in the California desert.

Commandos from the 40 Commando Battle Group trained with the USMC’s 7th Marine Regiment in the Marine Air Ground Combat Training Centre at Twentynine Palms.

The training allowed the Royal Marines to further their preparations for the battlefield of the future as part of the Future Commando Force concept.

The British commandos disrupted the enemy and enabled the larger conventional USMC forces to attack the contested area. The 2nd Marine Division acted as the enemy for the war games.

40 Commando lieutenant Simon Williams said: “The new multirole teams shape the environment, taking out forward enemy positions and assets, enabling the larger conventional USMC forces access into a contested area. The USMC facilities offer an excellent opportunity for every commando to train to their full potential. The huge range complex is large enough for Vikings and Jackals to tear around at full speed.

“Operating in the desert itself has its own difficulties. Usually synonymous with being dry and hot, the temperature in October can fluctuate between 30°C at daytime, to below freezing at night. Twentynine Palms tests every commando.”

The training exercise, known as Green Dagger, enables the marines to hone their desert warfare skills and improve their relationship with the USMC.

Simon Williams added that the exercise showcases the ability of the marines to integrate with partners.

The Royal Marines employed technology during Exercise Green Dagger, including drones for surveillance and reconnaissance for an edge in urban scenarios. A chest-mounted tablet was also used to gain an overview of the battle during the drills.

11 November 2019

USAF tests Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA laser weapon system

The US Air Force (USAF) has tested Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser weapon system at a test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, US.

During the demonstration, the laser weapon system engaged and shot down a variety of fixed-wing and rotary drones.

The test was performed in a fully netted engagement environment. Airmen were provided access to a government command and control (C2) system and radar sensor to track the drones.

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said: “The radar track was provided to airmen who operated ATHENA via cues from the C2, then ATHENA’s beam director slewed, acquired, tracked and defeated the drone with a high-energy laser.”

The real-world demonstration provided a glimpse of the ATHENA laser weapon’s capabilities against unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Lockheed Martin Missile Defense Programs vice-president Sarah Reeves said: “We’ve watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it’s an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin’s critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter.”

The company’s ATHENA system provides a cost-effective anti-drone capability to troops.

Engagements during the demonstration resembled those encountered by the military.

In September 2017, the US Army performed a series of tests on the ATHENA system. The system downed five Outlaw unmanned aerial systems during the tests at the army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, US.

The prototype laser weapon system can defeat a range of close-in, low-value threats such as improvised rockets, trucks, small boats, unmanned aerial systems and vehicles.

11 November 2019

Rafael to showcase Drone Dome at DSEI Japan

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is set to showcase its Drone Dome, a counter unmanned aerial system (UAS) air defence system, at the inaugural DSEI Japan event this month.

Several countries have already ordered the counter-UAS system and Rafael has offered the system to Japan to defend the skies above the Tokyo Olympics next year.

When contacted Rafael did not disclose which nations had ordered the system, however the British Army has in the past purchased six of the systems at a cost of £16m.

According to the Rafael the system “integrates detection, classification, identification, and neutralisation capabilities, providing an end-to-end, mobile, quick response anti-UAV defence solution for sensitive sites and airspace”.

Drawing on the company’s experience in the sector from work on Iron Dome and other anti-air systems, the system is designed largely to intercept micro and nano UAVs, such as those used in aerial attacks or to survey and conduct intelligence gathering against military positions.

A spokesperson for Rafael told Air Force Technology: “As for performance, I think it’s a combination of long-time experience Rafael has in the field of air defence, its multidisciplinary make-up, and more specifically, unique advanced algorithms that play a major role in the way the system identifies, tracks and neutralises [threats].”

Drone Dome can operate in all weather conditions and works using a three-pronged approach. Firstly a radar system detects the target; this target is then engaged using a high power laser interceptor to destroy the drone and a ‘C-Guard RD’ system that can jam the drone’s connection with its operator.

The combination of hard and soft kill measures gives the system a better chance of destroying its target and also can reduce the risk of collateral damage.

The system is believed to have been deployed at Gatwick Airport in 2018 during the drone disruption incident that grounded flights for three days. British and US Special Forces in Syria have also reportedly used the system.

Drone Dome has a detection range of ten miles across 360 degrees of coverage from four radars. In promotional material Rafael says: “The Drone system is operational under all weather conditions, 24 hours a day. First, the threat is detected and identified by the radar and EO/IR sensors. The data is combined, correlated and alerts the operator of the hostile UAV.”

Once the hostile UAV enters the target area, the operator can then choose how to engage the target using either the hard or soft kill method.

11 November 2019

GA-EMS to develop on-demand hydrogen generation tech for US Army

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has received a two-year contract from the US Army to develop a prototype high-pressure hydrogen generation system.

The hydrogen generation system will be used by the army for refuelling hydrogen vehicles in the battlefield.

The contract work involves design, fabrication, and demonstration of a prototype mobile platform for the on-demand generation of high-pressure hydrogen.

GA-EMS will use its aluminium alloy hydrogen-producing technology to develop the system. The company has not disclosed the value of the contract.

The proposed platform will produce hydrogen through a reaction between water and a dry aluminium alloy.

GA-EMS president Scott Forney said: “Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells offer a more reliable, efficient, quiet, reduced thermal signature and environmentally sound option to support field operations. With a battlefield-based hydrogen fuelling station, the army can improve vehicle range, improve efficiency, and reduce dependency on oil and the logistical burden that is associated with it.

“Under this contract, we will provide a deployable, hydrogen generation platform with the capability to produce high-purity, high-pressure hydrogen for more efficient ground vehicle support.”

The hydrogen generation system will use local water resources. The company stated that the on-demand generation of hydrogen will also remove the need to transport and store ‘large amounts of hydrogen to support longer-range power requirements’.

Last month, GA-EMS was awarded a contract by Dynetics Technical Solutions for the production of subassemblies for the US Army’s Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) project.

8 November 2019

New 3D printer to expedite prototyping of revolutionary technologies

The University of Maine’s (UMaine) new 3D printing capability will enable the rapid production of products and prototypes for the US Army.

Recently acquired, the world’s largest 3D printer will deliver innovations in defence equipment.

Unveiled last month, the printer will see the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Soldier Center (SC) and UMaine work on advancing the 3D printing capability.

The capability will allow army engineers to prototype technologies for troops. It will accelerate the process to ensure critical capabilities are delivered to soldiers in less time.

The printer will support the development of rapidly deployable shelter systems for the army.

UMaine showcased the S-280, a 3D-printed, vehicle-mounted US Army communications shelter last month at the unveiling event of the new printer. The shelter was printed in 48 hours.

CCDC SC military deputy colonel Frank Moore said: “The new 3D Printer will really help drive the collaboration. They are the only facility right now that can print on this size and this scale and do this kind of 3D manufacturing, which will revolutionise how the army prototypes and manufactures shelters, vehicles and other large systems.”

The new 3D printer has the ability to create objects up to 100ft. It will cater to the production of large-scale structures.

CCDC SC Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate director Claudia Quigley said: “This new capability will allow the army to apply additive manufacturing principles to the development of large structures, revolutionising the army’s ability to design and ultimately produce army equipment, such as shelters and command posts.

“There are opportunities to develop new high strength structural composite materials, to optimise designs for new army technologies, to develop new design processes for full-scale manufacturability, and then to rapidly produce army equipment. This 3D printing capability for large structures supports army readiness and modernisation initiatives in a multi-domain environment.”