Pentagon budget 2024: Chinese balloon incident prompts last-minute ISR investment

by Carlo Munoz

A Chinese surveillance balloon flies above in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the United States on 4 February 2023. The incursion prompted the US Department of Defense to include USD90 million in last-minute ISR investments in its FY 2024 budget proposal. (Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The fallout from the detection and eventual shoot-down of a Chinese high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) balloon operating in US airspace prompted several last-minute changes in the US Department of Defense (DoD) budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2024.

Roughly USD90 million has been requested to finance future initiatives to better prepare US armed forces to protect against similar threats, said US Navy Vice Admiral Sara Joyner during a DoD briefing on the Pentagon's FY 2024 spending proposal, released on 13 March.

“I will tell you today that our sensors are capable of seeing high-altitude balloons and capable of tracking them, but it is a matter [of] tuning and optimising those systems to try and get after all forms of intrusions into our airspace,” said Vice Adm Joyner, who serves as the director of Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment on the Joint Staff.

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Pentagon budget 2024: DoD funds Leader, Manpack radio procurement, tactical network funds remain static

by Carlo Munoz

A forward observer with C Company, 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division (Air Assault) uses AN/PRC 148 2-channel Leader Radio to transmit position location obtained from the Android Tactical Assault Kit during a live-fire exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, in January 2019. (US Army )

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has called for a funding increase for the two-channel Leader Radio (LR) and the Manpackable (MP) variant of the Single-Channel Data Radio (SCDR), however, largely left coffers funding tactical network technology (TNT) development remain static, according to the department's fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget proposal.

The Pentagon's total request for USD769.4 million to procure LR and MP/SCDRs for five US Army brigade combat teams (BCTs) in FY 2024 is USD104.7 million above the department's FY 2023 request of USD664.7 million for those programmes, according to budget documents released on 13 March. Within that USD769.4 million request, USD765 will be set aside for the procurement effort, while the remaining USD4.3 million will finance ongoing research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) efforts already under way, the documents stated.

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USAF secures IRON network capability to missile fields, installations

by Carlo Munoz

The 341st Missile Security Operations Squadron carry out security drills at a launch facility, near Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force (USAF) has contracted US information technology company Persistent Systems to provide mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) capability to the service's security forces, tasked with protecting major intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields and installations in the continental United States (CONUS).

Officials from Air Force Global Strike Command inked a USD75.5 million deal with the company to provide their Infrastructure-based Regional Operation Network (IRON) programme, which will provide MANET connectivity for force protection units at three separate ICBM fields, according to a 1 March company statement. The contract award will support the air service's Regional Operating Picture (ROP) programme, according to the statement.

The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) in Montana, the 90th Missile Wing at Francis Emroy (FE) Warren AFB in Wyoming, and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, will be the first installations to be networked with the new IRON programme.

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Control system: Indian firm delivers C2 capability to armed forces

by Oishee Majumdar

A conceptual image that Grene Robotics says shows the layers of protection Indrajaal can offer to defend critical infrastructure from low RCS threats. (Grene Robotics)

Hyderabad-based Grene Robotics has developed a command-and-control (C2) system that it says leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to co-ordinate with military systems, supporting faster decision-making on the battlefield.

Several versions of the C2 system have been delivered to the Indian military, and have been used to support the development of a counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) named Indrajaal.

Wing Commander (retd) MVN Sai, director of emerging technologies at Grene Robotics, told Janes that Indrajaal manages a network of subsystems to detect and counter low radar cross-section (RCS) aerial threats including medium-altitude and high-altitude long-endurance (MALE and HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), loitering munitions, UAV swarms, as well as guided munitions with a range of 40–60 km.

Sai said the company envisages the operation of one Indrajaal C-UAS system defending an area of around 4,000 km² “instead of deploying nearly 20 separate C-UASs to do the same”. Such an area could include military bases or critical infrastructure.

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