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Latest reporting and analysis on defence technology developments
Stay up to date with the latest insight, news and analysis on global defence technology. Stories derived from Janes Defence: News Module.
Rafael unveils Sea Breaker advanced autonomous long-range missile system
30th June: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has disclosed the development of Sea Breaker – a new, fifth-generation, autonomous, precision-guided, long-range missile system, designed for precision engagement of emerging and next-generation maritime and land threats, stationary or moving, at ranges out to 300 km. Described by Rafael as “a naval and artillery force multiplier”, Sea Breaker is a day/night all-weather effector for use with naval platforms and shore-based launchers operating in what the company characterises as the “new battlefield”, where precision accuracy and low-collateral damage are required in a target environment protected by advanced electronic warfare, anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) and GPS/GPSS jam and denial systems.
Advancing artillery: Improving accuracy, range, and reaction time for ‘the king of battle'
21st June: Fundamentally, the tactical and technical employment of artillery firepower exploits the interrelated principles of mass and manoeuvre. Mass refers to the concentration of volumes of fire on a target, while manoeuvre refers to the transfer and distribution of fire rapidly from one point to another. Manoeuvre also refers to the ability to displace rapidly, which is inherent in the mobility of field artillery units, and the capability to quickly prepare for combat and place the bulk of fires where needed. Therefore, when organising for offence or planning for defence, the manoeuvrability of all elements in an artillery organisation must be considered: target acquisition assets, command-and-control (C2) systems, fire direction centres, and fire units (FUs). Planning includes the scheme of defence, manoeuvre (in offence), terrain limitations, current and planned tactical groupings, and the availability of other fire support agencies.
US Army leverages VR technology to improve combat decision making
28th June: The US Army is exploiting recent advances in virtual reality (VR) technology, as well as in neuro and other physiological sensors, to help understand how small teams function in extreme environments. The research was funded by the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM)'s Army Research Laboratory (ARL), and led by scientists at the Electrophysiological Neuroscience Laboratory at Kent State University. It saw the development of a virtual reality lab aimed at furthering the understanding of group dynamics, an important consideration as the US military becomes more reliant on small teams, such as special operations forces.
Almaz-Antey unveils latest naval air-defence systems
28th June: Russia's state-owned Almaz-Antey Concern unveiled its latest range of shipborne air-defence systems at the International Maritime Defence Show 2021 (IMDS 2021), held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 23–27 June. Resurs (Resource) is a new surface ship-borne naval air-defence system intended to engage both manned air platforms and unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), including extremely low-flying UASs, at short ranges. The system, which is capable of simultaneously engaging up to five aerial targets, comprises new effectors, a command module, and below-deck firing station and support systems.
US AFWERX eyes runway independence with Electra's blown lift eSTOL aircraft
25th June: The US Air Force's (USAF's) AFWERX venture is intrigued by the possibility that Electra's distributed hybrid-electric propulsion approach to blown lift could provide the service with runway-independent aircraft. Colonel Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, told Janes on 23 June that AFWERX's Agility Prime advanced air mobility vehicle effort, which has been primarily looking at electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developments, is intent to focus on runway-independent operations. Ben Marchionna, Electra director of technology and innovation, told Janes on 22 June that the company plans to have its electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft use blown lift and distributed electric propulsion (DEP) to take off with low speed in distances as short as 30.5 m, which Electra calls ultra-short eSTOL.
Altered states: Quantum systems could spawn an exotic information age
25th June: Quantum science seems to promise a disruptive shift in technology that armed forces and governments are eager to exploit. The first spin-based Loss–DiVicenzo quantum computer was proposed in 1997, but since then the science has experienced a resurgence of scrutiny after Canada-based D-Wave announced it had developed a 28-qubit quantum computer in 2007. “When [American mathematician Peter] Shor pioneered his algorithm [in 1994], which is basically an algorithm to factor large numbers into their primes, that is what really started the quantum computing field,” Sara Jean Gamble, programme manager in the Physics Division of the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Army Research Office (ARO), told Janes.
Images emerge of PLA's newest infantry weapons
25th June: Images have emerged on Chinese social media platforms showing a comprehensive line-up of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) newest infantry weapons. None of the weapons shown in the images, which were posted in early June on Weibo, feature their official military designations, although some of them are already known. The display included the 9 mm CS/LS7 sub-machine gun (SMG) that was observed during the 1 October 2019 military parade in Beijing. This weapon is thought to be meant as a replacement for the QCW-05 SMG, chambered in the 5.8 × 21 mm cartridge.
Test and verify: US Navy advances unmanned integration during ‘UxS IBP 21'
24th June: The US Navy's (USN's) desire to accelerate the integration of unmanned systems into its fleet was demonstrated in April when it completed a first-of-its-kind major exercise designed to demonstrate the potential advantages of multidomain manned and unmanned operations. The exercise, called ‘Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21', was conducted by the USN's 3rd Fleet off the coast of San Diego, California, from 19–26 April and demonstrated the potential advantages and challenges of fielding a hybrid force structure across various planning and operational scenarios.
Israel tests ‘groundbreaking' airborne laser
23rd June: The Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Elbit Systems announced on 21 June that a series of tests of an airborne high-power laser system had been successfully completed. The MoD said the tests were carried out by its Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), Elbit, and the Israeli Air Force and involved several unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) targets being intercepted at various altitudes and ranges by the high-power laser weapon system.
Hanwha South Korea to deploy rail-mounted robot, AI-based surveillance systems to enhance border security
16th June: South Korean defence prime Hanwha Systems is set to lead a consortium comprising industry and academic research institutes to develop technologies applicable for autonomous underwater and unmanned surface vehicles (AUV and USV)-based wide-area search-and-rescue (SAR) operations. The project, known locally as ‘Development of AUV and Operation Systems for Cluster Search', was launched by the Korea Institute of Marine Science and Technology Promotion (KIMST) on 11 June and is worth about KRW25 billion (USD22 million). KIMST aims to complete this project by 2025.
South Korea to deploy rail-mounted robot, AI-based surveillance systems to enhance border security
16th June: South Korea plans to deploy two new surveillance systems later this year to enhance round-the-clock border security amid heightened tensions with neighbouring North Korea. The country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said in a 16 June statement that the systems – a rail-mounted robot and an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled video and audio system – are being acquired through a fast-track procurement process and will initially be introduced as part of six-month-long trials starting in October (for the AI-based system) and December (for the rail-mounted system).
Chinese air force applying artificial intelligence to air combat training
16th June: The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology in pilot training by China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has progressed to use in simulator training, according to a 12 June report published in the PLA Daily newspaper. The paper wrote that pilot Fang Guoyu, who was described as a “group leader in a brigade under the PLA Central Theatre Command Air Force”, was pitted in the simulator against an opponent driven by an AI-equipped system.
StrikeShield armour: Rheinmetall details its new distributed APS
11th June: Hungary is to be the first customer for Rheinmetall's StrikeShield hybrid armour solution, Gáspár Maróth, government commissioner for development of Hungary's armed forces, said in May. Rheinmetall confirmed on 18 May that the approximately EUR140 million (USD170 million) contract will provide the StrikeShield active protection package for the majority of Hungary's 209 Lynx armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), which the country agreed to procure in 2020 for EUR2 billion. StrikeShield is a modular, distributed, hard-kill active protection system (APS) incorporated into a spaced passive armour package for the Lynx tracked infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) application. It is designed to be installed onto medium-weight AFVs such as the Boxer 8×8 or Lynx.
Ghost Fleet Overlord programme completes second long transit with unmanned surface vessel
08th June: The Pentagon's Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and US Navy (USN) conducted a second long-range autonomous transit with a Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vessel (USV) from the US Gulf Coast, passing through the Panama Canal, to the US West Coast, the US Defense Department confirmed on 7 June. The unmanned vessel Nomad travelled 4,421 n miles, 98% of which was in autonomous mode, the Pentagon said. The first Ghost Fleet Overlord vessel, Ranger , completed a similar transit in October 2020.
Titanis C-UAS capability to employ hard-kill, soft-kill, and directed-energy solutions
07th June: Australian company Electro Optic Systems (EOS) has unveiled a scaleable, fully integrated counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) capability that employs soft-kill, hard-kill, and directed-energy effectors. Launched at the Land Forces 21 exposition in Brisbane and based on the EOS R-series remote weapon station (RWS), Titanis combines detection, command-and-control (C2), and layered capabilities to acquire, track, and defeat all types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including fixed-wing platforms and ‘Class 3' quadcopters weighing up to 600 kg.
Hanwha to develop laser oscillator for air-defence system
01st June: Hanwha Corporation announced on 31 May that it has secured a contract to develop a laser oscillator for use in future, laser-based short-range air-defence weapon systems designed to primarily engage unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The company said in a statement that the KRW24.3 billion (USD21.9 million) contract, which was awarded by the country's Agency for Defense Development (ADD), is aimed at developing a prototype within four years. The laser oscillator plays a key role in generating the laser beam and determines the performance of the laser weapon.
US Army demonstrates MUOS capability for tactical radios
3rd May: US Army tactical radio and networked communications specialists demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to integrate Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) capability to mounted and dismounted radio platforms. The implementation of MUOS capability into the army’s tactical manpack radio system variants “provided additional beyond the line-of-sight communications … and leverage the ability to fully dominate both the data and voice spectrum”, during the exercise, said Colonel Rob Ryan, chief of operations for Army Future Command’s Network Cross-Functional Team.
Advanced C2 software suite clears critical USAF milestone
3rd May: An early variant of a new, advanced suite of combat management tools and software under development for the US Air Force (USAF) has cleared a critical milestone, paving the way for the system’s eventual deployment to combat zones around the world. Officials at Air Combat Command and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCM) declared the Kessel Run All-Domain Operations Suite (KRADOS) for the Air Operations Center Weapon System (AOC WS) as having cleared the “minimal viable product” technology threshold.
Phantom Works-led Arctic sensor consortium to demonstrate new concepts
5th May: The Integrated Remote Sensing for the Arctic (IRSA) Development Group (IDG) plans to demonstrate its capability for the first time from 18–25 August, consortium officials told Janes. Exercise ‘ArcticX21’, which will be controlled from the 24,000 km 2 Andøya Test Range in Norway, is to demonstrate a series of new concepts and technologies relating to multiplatform missions designed to enhance situational awareness (SA) across the Arctic.
Australia determining functional requirements for a next-generation IUSS
7th May: Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD) has notified industry that it is continuing operational analysis and concept development to determine the functional requirements for a next-generation integrated undersea surveillance system (IUSS) for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). A request for information (RFI) for Project Sea 5012 Phase 1 will follow no later than September 2021, said the DoD in a recent notification, adding that this will identify key partners with requisite capabilities in design, development, and integration of undersea technology, platforms, and sensors.
Logistics and data crunching should lead AI’s first applications for allies, say officials
7th May: Artificial intelligence (AI) will impact “everything” in the defence domain, but its application to logistics, object-motion recognition, and rapid data-crunching should be among its first goals, officials and policy analysts said at a virtual conference on the topic hosted by the Center for European Policy Analysis on 4 May. “AI is such a foundational technology that it will affect all it touches, not just a weapons system or sensor, but especially how data is collected and digested,” said Gilman Louie, head of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. “When you are at the algorithm-vs-algorithm level, it is all or nothing.
South Korea aims to develop small ground reconnaissance robot
10th May: South Korea is aiming to develop small ground surveillance/reconnaissance robots for deployment in “high-risk areas” such as the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), underground facilities, and tunnels, the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 10 May. The agency said that it has invited research institutes as well as local and foreign companies to submit proposals by 30 June for a project aimed at determining the robot’s design, its power supply, as well as its “object recognition and tracking technology”, which is expected to be highly capable as well as energy efficient.
Lockheed Martin, Pentagon establish bi-directional communications between fifth-generation aircraft, ground units
10th May: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and the Pentagon for the first time established bi-directional communications between fifth-generation aircraft in flight while also sharing operational and sensor data to ground forces during a recent test, according to a company statement on 3 May. This flight test, named Project Hydra, linked a Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, five Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), and a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor in the air and provided real-time fifth-generation data to operators on the ground.
The last mile: UASs in the logistics chain
11th May: The way that unmanned aerial systems (UASs) have influenced recent conflicts and will influence future ones is driving armed forces to compete in a domain that is dominated by emerging technologies. As part of these efforts, some forces have begun to test the feasibility of deploying UASs as part of their logistics chains. The efficient delivery of supplies to frontline units over what is termed ‘the last mile’ has been a constant challenge for armed forces. Last-mile delivery refers to the distance between the end of the main supply chain, where supplies are usually carried by truck or helicopter to platoon- or squad-sized units.
Advanced manufacturing: AMCOM aims to leverage digital innovations
17th May: The US Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) is pursuing a range of innovations in advanced manufacturing, underpinned by digital technologies. While the initial aim is to support maintenance and sustainment efforts for its fleet of Black Hawk helicopters, AMCOM envisages significant implications for such concepts across its systems in the coming years. In mid-2020 the command announced a partnership with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), under which the latter will create a ‘digital twin’ of a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter.
RF revolution: Advances in digital phased arrays
17th May: Digital phased arrays (DPAs) can support multiple functions – from radar to communications – with increased accuracy and precision. While they are not a new concept, a range of military and defence organisations have made significant progress in the technology in recent years, notably in reducing DPAs’ size, weight, and power (SWaP) demands. Phased arrays enable operators to steer radio waves quickly to detect platforms such as aircraft, although there are also applications in areas like acoustics. In DPAs, the formation and steering of the beam is conducted in the digital domain, with digitisation occurring at every antenna element.
Networked approach: The future of chemical and biological detection
19th May: Detecting and identifying chemical and biological threats has long been a priority for the US armed forces and its allies, but the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the focus on such dangers and on the technologies to counter them. Experts point to a growing emphasis on integrated networking, with the aim of more quickly transmitting information on potential threats and readying a response. There are numerous potential threats within the broader chemical and biological space, both manmade and naturally occurring, ranging from anthrax to plague to potentially devastating viruses like SARS-CoV-2.
The bleeding edge: Tactical AI reaches the digital battlefield
19th May: US armed forces are looking to close the gap between the laboratory and the battlefield, in terms of developing and fielding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities, by rapidly integrating AI-enabled technologies into combat platforms and pushing algorithm development, testing, and training down to the tactical level. AI development at the tactical and operational level has so far focused on two major initiatives. One has been advancing computing hardware and applying AI-enabled capabilities to address rear echelon operations from maintenance and supply logistics to processing.
USSOCOM’s HEO project spins off two official programmes
19th May: The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will transition a pair of emerging capabilities associated with the Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO) concept into Programs of Record, (POR) director of science and technology Lisa Sanders told Janes. The capabilities, which include what was originally called beyond line of sight (BLOS) communications and an integrated situational awareness tool, have been explored over the past 12 months by USSOCOM’s Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) in collaboration with the US Army Special Operations Command.
USSOCOM eyes digital engineering for next-gen Dry Combat Submersible
21st May: US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) may utilise digital engineering to design its next-generation Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) concept, officials disclosed this week. Speaking to Janes from the virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), USSOCOM’s Acquisition Executive Jim Smith said DCS-Next (also referred to as DCS Block II) would be a “great candidate” for a digital engineering solution, based on lessons learned developing the original DCS programme. Development of the first generation DCS saw USSOCOM leasing an S301i dry manned submersible from Lockheed Martin before contracting the same company to construct a pair of prototypes following feedback from US Naval Special Warfare (NSW).
Iran unveils 'Gaza' UAV
24th May: Iran has revealed a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) seemingly based on the US-built General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper. The ‘Gaza', as the UAV has been named in reference to the Palestinian territory, was unveiled on 21 May in series of images and videos posted by state-affiliated media organisations. “Today, with divine success and the efforts of the country's scientists and experts, we are witnessing the unveiling of three strategic and important achievements that were born and created under the conditions of sanctions and maximum pressure of the enemy,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) aerospace force, was quoted by national media as saying, noting that one of the three achievements is the Gaza UAV.
24th May: Indonesian state-owned company PT Pindad announced on 23 May that the recently launched ‘Antasena Tank Boat' prototype has undergone a series of sea and weapon trials in waters off East Java. The company said that the 18 m-long catamaran-type vessel, which was developed by an Indonesian consortium led by PT Pindad, test-fired its 30 mm automatic cannon at the Indonesian Navy's (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut's, TNI–AL's) Paiton weapons range after having travelled there from Banyuwangi. The prototype vessel, which was launched on 28 April, then returned to Banyuwangi, with PT Pindad saying that the total distance travelled for the trials amounted to 170 n miles.
South Korea launches new military technology agency
24th May: South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 21 May the formal inauguration of its new agency to support the development of the country’s defence technology and industry base. DAPA said the remit of the Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement (KRIT) is to modernise the country’s system for defence technology planning and management, strengthen the domestic defence industry, increase the international competitiveness of South Korean military technologies, and support industrial expansion in overseas markets.
US AFWERX would ‘love’ jet speed in new High-Speed VTOL Challenge
24th May: The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) AFWERX venture wants to achieve jet speed with platforms proposed through its new High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) Challenge, but recognises that high speed comes with high costs. “We would love to have that speed,” Colonel Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, told Janes on 21 May. “[But] speed is obviously expensive. Trying to find … the knee in the curve for the business case is really something that we are exploring.”
US Army approves initial Tactical Space Layer capability requirements
24th May: The US Army is pressing forward with plans to develop a new network of space-based tactical sensors and ground stations, as senior service brass continue talks with US Space Force (USSF) counterparts on how to divvy up space requirements and capabilities for future conflicts. Officials from the army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team (APNT/Space CFT) have signed off on an Abbreviated - Capability Development Document (A-CDD) for the Tactical Space Layer (TSL) programme.
US Army preps for TITAN ground station experimentation
24th May: US Army officials are preparing to implement a full-scale experimentation plan for new ground stations designed for the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) programme, with service leaders anticipating development of a full-on TITAN ground station by 2022. The TITAN ground station platform, as envisioned, will consolidate functionalities of several legacy fixed and mobile ground stations, and then fuse the collected data from various ground, aerial, and space-based sensors into a single station, according to Willie Nelson, director of the army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team (APNT/Space CFT). That capability will also be scalable to support all echelons from brigade to division, Nelson added.
SEAS 2021: Serbia’s indigenously-developed Pegaz UAV takes-off in China
24th May: Serbia’s tactical-class Pegaz (Pegasus) multirole unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been redesigned with Chinese assistance and has already made its first flights in China, Nenad Miloradović – the assistant minister for material resources in the Serbian Ministry of Defence (MoD) – revealed during the online/hybrid Southeast Europe Aviation Summit (SEAS 2021) in Belgrade on 18 May. Miloradović provided a video showing several sequences of the UAV taking off, operating at low altitudes, and landing in clean and armed – with dummy underwing rockets – configurations.
IRGC unveils short-range SAM
25th May: Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) unveiled a new, shorter-range version of its 3 Khordad surface-to-air missile (SAM) system on 21 May. Often compared to the Russian Buk family of mobile SAM systems, the 3 Khordad was unveiled in 2014 and credited with shooting down a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle flying over the Gulf of Oman at a range of a 70 km on 20 June 2019. Named after a Persian date like the 3 Khordad, the new 9 Dey variant that was displayed used what looked like an identical transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) unit but with two pods, each with four smaller missiles in cannisters, attached to its three missile-launch rails.
Rules of behaviour: Orbital warfare
25th May: As the ultimate high ground, space-based capabilities undeniably provide integral support to defence, intelligence, and security services. Robust and capable space-based services, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, provide global command-and-control (C2) facilities to militaries that enable enhanced situational awareness via the monitoring and tracking of both friendly forces and threats. “Although space started off as a strategic domain, today it is very much used for operational and tactical advantage on the battlefield,” Kestutis Paulauskas, senior strategy officer of NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, stated in a March 2020 article, ‘Space: NATO's latest frontier'.
South Korea's ADD develops laser-power enhancing technology
25th May: South Korea's Agency for Defense Development (ADD) announced on 25 May that it has developed a laser-power enhancing technology for use in future weapon systems, with the most immediate application being a laser-based air-defence system. The agency said in a statement that the technology combines multiple lasers with different wavelengths into a single beam, which is understood to refer to a technique known as spectral beam combining. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA)-led project, which began in 2015 and was completed in 2020, saw the ADD apply the spectral beam-combining technology to a 1 kW-class laser module and manage to integrate five 1 kW-class fibre lasers into one 5 kW-class high-quality laser module.
Turkey's AUSV armed unmanned surface vessel test fires Cirit missile
27th May: Turkey's first indigenous armed unmanned surface vessel (AUSV), Sida, hit a target during its first test firing of a missile during exercise ‘Sea Wolf 2021', which is being held in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Seas from 25 May to 6 June, the Turkish Ministry of Defence tweeted on 27 May. In a separate tweet on 27 May, İsmail Demir, head of Turkey's Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), identified the missile fired as the laser-guided Cirit. Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence, which developed Sida, tweeted on 23 April that the AUSV will come soon in an anti-submarine warfare variant.
31st May: Australian company DroneShield is integrating its DroneSentry-C2 command-and-control system and a miniaturised radar into tethered unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), the latest step in the counter-UAS (C-UAS) specialist’s efforts to expand its work into new technological domains. DroneSentry-C2 provides operators with a range of functions. It has a graphic user interface (GUI) that compiles large amounts of environmental data for the user, reducing reaction and response times, and offering an early warning system and growing detection threat capacity as more data is processed, according to the manufacturer. It provides a live monitoring capability and the capacity to manage a site from any location, while it can also interface with soft kill C-UAS effectors such as radio frequency (RF) jammers.
AEUK delivers autonomous route survey capability for Project Wilton
30 Apr: Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK) has completed deliveries to the UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) new Project Wilton autonomous route survey capability, the company announced on 30 April. Based at HM Naval Base Clyde, and forming part of the RN’s first Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron, Project Wilton is a peacetime MCM route survey capability assembled from a mix of assets including crewed and uncrewed surface craft, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and side-scan sonar equipment, as well as a portable command centre (PCC) and associated communications.
Russia developing new parachute platform for heavy loads
30 Apr: Russian industry is developing a new multirole parachute platform for heavy payloads for the country’s Airborne Troops (VDV), the head of the VDV’s airborne training department, Colonel Vladimir Kvash, told the Ministry of Defence’s Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper on 28 April. “Because the VDV is being equipped with new wheeled vehicles, the UMPP unified multirole parachute platform for airdropping systems and cargoes weighing up to 18 tonnes is being developed,” said Col Kvash.
Boeing launches Australian technology project
30 Apr: Boeing has entered a new arrangement with the Australian state government of Queensland to identify new small businesses in the region to develop next-generation aerospace technologies. Boeing said on 29 April that its ‘Boeing HorizonX’ initiative, which will run for three years, will focus on partnering selected new businesses in a series of prioritised capability themes including advanced robotics, space, Industry 4.0 techniques, sustainability, and autonomous systems.
US Navy puts unmanned integration to the test
28 Apr: The US Navy (USN) has completed a major Pacific Fleet exercise designed to demonstrate the operational pay-offs realisable through the closer integration of multidomain manned and unmanned capabilities. Known as ‘Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21’, the exercise was executed by the US 3rd Fleet from 19 to 26 April under the command of Rear Admiral James Aiken, commander, Carrier Strike Group Three.
UAVOS performs test flight of experimental turbulence payload
28 Apr: UAVOS carried out the test flight of an experimental turbulence detection payload on its HiDRON stratospheric glider on 1 April. UAVOS’ operators launched the HiDRON from a high-altitude balloon at 23,900 m/78,412 ft. A launch routine was tested in which the HiDRON transitioned from free-fall to stable horizontal flight at 23,100 m/75,787 ft. The payload was a combination of forward-sensing turbulence detection technologies developed by the University of Kentucky (UK) and a US federal agency that UAVOS declined to specify.
InstantEye Robotics demonstrates Gen 5 Echo palm-sized UAV at US Army AEWE
30 Apr: InstantEye Robotics demonstrated its Mk-3 Gen5-D1/D2 (E) Echo palm-sized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the recent US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE). Mike Mackiewicz, the director of operations at InstantEye Robotics, told Janes on 26 April that the Echo is an enhanced version of the company’s Generation 5 aircraft and has the Gluon 640x512 long-wave infrared (LWIR) imaging camera, which is a military-only sensor in development.
Nexter unveils ASCALON, its concept for next-generation main battle tank armament
23 Apr: Nexter on 14 April unveiled its concept for the next generation of main battle tank (MBT) armament, which it has designated ASCALON (Autoloaded and SCALable Outperforming guN). Nexter is pitching the ASCALON concept as an open architecture solution, forming the basis of a future joint development for the main armament requirement of the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). MGCS is aimed at replacing the French Leclerc and German Leopard 2 MBTs about 2040.
Invisible crew: Autonomy tech promises step change for next-gen USVs
27 Apr: Until recently, naval forces appeared content with employing relatively small unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) – generally 11 m long or shorter – with correspondingly limited endurance, range, and payload capacity. While some of these small USVs are multirole, the majority are used in confined waters as technology demonstrators for concept development and experimentation, or are limited to a narrow scope of applications, such as coastal patrol; environmental survey; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); mine countermeasures (MCM); and port and/or force protection.
South Korea announces development of radar technology capable of detecting stealth fighters
27 Apr: South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development (ADD) announced on 27 April that it has completed development of a high-power, high-sensitivity radar technology capable of detecting and tracking fighter aircraft with a low radar cross section (commonly known as stealth fighters). The agency said in a statement that the new, indigenously developed capability uses “active phased arrays, and high-performance/high-speed software technology that captures weak signals against noise”.
Iran unveils mini turbojet engine
27 Apr: Iran unveiled during an exhibition for new defence technology developments a micro turbojet engine that is similar to the ones used in surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) found in shipments of suspected Iranian arms that the US Navy intercepted en route to Yemen. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the military’s deputy chief for co-ordination, was seen inspecting three of the turbojets in media coverage of the exhibition on 25 April. Identified as the Ranesh-1, the engine was reportedly developed to power unmanned aerial vehicles, light aircraft, and missiles.
Digital-twin strategy seeks AI development at the tactical edge
26 Apr: The US Department of Defense is looking at implementing the so-called ‘digital twins’ of combat platforms alongside their real-life counterparts during the ongoing operations to push artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm and capability development close to the tactical edge. The strategy is rooted in the idea that programme officials can create a digital or virtual reality duplicate of a given combat system, and allow that digital copy access to the same AI processes and applications that the real-world version of the system utilises during a given combat rotation.
Europe’s armed forces seek to pinpoint needed ‘emerging disruptive technologies’
23 Apr: Europe’s defence ministries plan to identify a common set of emerging disruptive technologies (EDTs) to develop for military application, although they differ over whether the technologies should be retrofitted to legacy systems or integrated into next-generation systems. “We are finalising an action plan to identify, research, and develop the most strategic EDTs, which should be ready by end of 2021,” said Jean-Francois Ripoche, head of research, technology, and innovation at the European Defence Agency (EDA).
ZALA Aero unveils hybrid engine UAV and GPS-independent UAS navigation
23 Apr: The Kalashnikov Group’s ZALA Aero unveiled the ZALA 421-16E5G unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a hybrid powerplant and a navigation system for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) that does not depend on GLONASS/GPS satellite navigation at a press event in Moscow on 14 April. Designed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions, the hybrid engined UAV has a swept wing with a 4.64 m wingspan. The hybrid powerplant is located in the UAV’s tail section and its internal combustion engine rotates the electric generator, powering the electric motor while also charging the battery.
Interoperable alliance: A4ESSOR presses for new NATO standard radio waveform
22 Apr: Europe’s A4ESSOR consortium has disclosed a series of measures designed to further improve and expand software-defined radio (SDR) communication. Launched in 2009 to explore the future of “coalition interoperability”, the consortium, which is responsible for enhancing the interoperability of European armed forces, is led by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) and features the ‘national champions’ of European participating states. These include Bittium (Finland), Thales (France), Leonardo (Italy), Radmor (Poland), Indra (Spain), and Rohde & Schwarz (Germany).
Heavy armour: Developing the future infantry fighting vehicles
21 Apr: In the near term, the vast majority of the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) market is focused on modernising legacy vehicles, or buying modernised versions of existing designs, rather than developing and fielding entirely new vehicle designs of a ‘next-generation’ nature. Perhaps most successful in the contemporary landscape, in market value and established user base, has been the CV90, which is used by nine countries and has been developed into more than 35 fielded variants and 20 developmental versions.
E-scanning from sea to shore: AESA surveillance radar family evolves
20 Apr: As demands increase for domain awareness over land and sea, Leonardo’s UK-based Advanced Radar and Targeting Systems business has latterly grown and updated its portfolio of X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radars to address the market across two broad fronts. In the first case, the company in 2016 launched its novel Osprey multimode AESA radar family as a cost-effective ‘multidomain’ airborne surveillance system. Flexible in configuration and installation, the system’s compact and lightweight flat-panel antenna architecture was designed to circumvent the installation constraints associated with rotating antennas, and open up installation opportunities for a variety of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and unmanned air platforms.
DARPA selects research teams for WARP programme
19 Apr: The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have officially selected several research teams to lead the agency’s work in developing technologies to expand and enhance wideband software defined radio (SDR) capabilities across the US armed forces. The teams, consisting of participants from industry and academia, “will explore a diverse set of technology approaches” in the field of wideband radio frequency (RF) interference cancellation for current and future SDR platforms, as part of the Wideband Adaptive RF Protection (WARP) programme, agency officials said in a statement
Tiny threats: Guarding land formations against micro-UAVs
16 Apr: The democratisation of technology has led to the adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by many non-state armed groups. Smaller UAVs have been used for a variety of roles, from reconnaissance to delivering grenades onto a target and kamikaze attacks such as those carried out against Russian aircraft stationed at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria. Similarly, Ukrainian and separatist forces modified commercial UAVs to deliver payloads during the early stages of fighting in the Donbass region. In China, the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force has fielded the DJI Phantom 4, a quadcopter UAV that can be bought for about USD2,200, to its sniper and reconnaissance teams to act as a form of extended reconnaissance.
Smart ASW: NATO IDT integrates science and warfighting in fast operational analysis
16 Apr: Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is among the highest-end operational taskings that navies are focused on, as peer competition and renewed naval rivalries drive increased investment in underwater capability and operations. Western navies operating in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific theatres are developing strategic-level ASW partnerships to build a sub-surface presence. New operational- and tactical-level concepts are being constructed, such as greater focus on active ASW operations and working up approaches like multistatics.
Dive Technologies pushes 3D printing for AUV manufacturing
12 Apr: Massachusetts-based startup Dive Technologies is looking to leverage additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, commonly referred to as 3D printing, for large and extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) applications. Dive Technologies utilised a Cincinnati Incorporated Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) 3D printer for the external hull fairings and smaller 3D printers for the internal components of their DIVE-LD autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). BAAM is an industrial-grade 3D printer that uses an extruder placed on a gantry system to create parts using materials such as high-performance thermoplastics, engineering grade thermoplastics, consumer grade thermoplastics and additives.
US Navy seeks GPS alternatives for hypersonic weapons
10 Apr: The Department of the Navy is seeking prototype proposals for a non-GPS-based position, navigation, and timing (PNT) system, that will eventually be integrated into the sea service’s future arsenal of hypersonic weapons and platforms. The solicitation, issued by the navy via a Request for Solutions (RFS) notice by the Strategic & Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S2MARTS) other transactional authority (OTA), has yet to be formally released to industry for response. But programme officials noted in the presolicitation notice that recent advances in electromagnetic interference technologies prompted navy leaders to seek PNT alternatives outside GPS.
DARPA issues contracts for WiSPER secure comms development
8 Apr: The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded contracts to three companies to investigate and develop wideband secure and protected radio interface technologies for next-generation tactical radios. The respective contracts, awarded in late March to CACI, Perspecta Labs, and Northrop Grumman, cover work under the agency’s Wideband Secure and Protected Emitter and Receiver (WiSPER) programme. CACI’s cost-plus-fixed fee award is valued at USD11.2 million, while Perspecta Labs received a USD19.2 million contract, and Northrop Grumman’s is worth USD18 million.
Tokyo urged to increasingly focus on high-power microwave- and laser-based weapons
29 Mar: The Japan Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) has urged Tokyo to increasingly focus on the development of advanced military technologies such as high-power microwave- and laser-based weapon systems to help counter the growing missile threat posed by neighbouring countries. Such technologies will most likely become a “game changer” in the field of missile defence, enabling Tokyo to shoot down multiple missiles simultaneously while drastically lowering the cost per intercept attempt compared with current technologies, said the NIDS think tank in its ‘East Asian Strategic Review 2021’.
AI development, training at the tactical edge inches towards reality
17 Mar: The ability for networked communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and other artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled end-user platforms to update and enhance their embedded AI algorithms, based on the data collected on the battlefield in real time, could soon be a reality. The current slate of AI-enabled tools and associated algorithms being integrated into deployable combat and intelligence platforms for US Armed Forces and government agencies can execute “inference at the edge”, as in predictive analysis of collected data to narrow down a list of potential options or outcomes for a combat commander, said Booz Allen Hamilton vice president Justin Neroda.
EDA studying ‘Predator suit’ adaptive camouflage systems
17 Mar: The European Defence Agency (EDA) is considering how future soldier technologies could support adaptive camouflage systems to better protect dismounted personnel, industry officials said. Speaking as a member of the EDA’s Adaptive Camouflage for the Soldier (ACAMS II) consortium at SMI’s virtual Future Soldier Technology conference in March, Dr Max Winkelmann, signatorics scientist at Fraunhofer IOSB, explained that battle management systems (BMSs) and soldier modernisation ensembles could be combined to create adaptive camouflage.
To see, or not to see: Thermal imagers advance but trade-offs abound
12 Mar: Nearly all armed forces require thermal imaging sensors. For many, though, the type of thermal imager selected will hinge upon an array of influencing factors and desired outcomes. Available technologies include the cooled medium-wave infrared (MWIR) imagers, the preferred choice for long-range applications and tropical climates, as well as cooled and uncooled long-wave infrared (LWIR) imagers. Silent Sentinel, a British company that manufactures thermal imagers, has developed a range of LR advanced thermal cameras, which merge the capabilities of cooled and uncooled thermal imaging optics.
10 Mar: India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has achieved a major milestone in the development of an indigenous fuel cell-based air-independent propulsion (AIP) system planned for retrofit to the Indian Navy’s Project 75 Kalvari-class submarines. In a 9 March statement, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that a land-based AIP prototype had successfully demonstrated both endurance and maximum power performance. Introduction of an AIP system will enable the Project 75 boats – based on the Scorpene design developed by France’s Naval Group – to significantly extend submerged endurance at slow speed.
China outlines technology priorities for ‘new era’
08 Mar: The Communist Party of China (CPC) has released more details about its plans to accelerate military modernisation during the country’s 14th Five Year Plan (FYP). A new draft of the 2021/25 plan issued on 6 March at the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing said priorities during the “new era” featured new military technologies, skills and training, and a shift towards “intelligentisation”. The draft – published by the People’s Daily, the CPC’s official mouthpiece – also highlights the significance that China will place on military-civil fusion (MCF) over the coming five years in supporting capability developments and China’s efforts towards self-reliance.
Insitu advances UAV hydrogen fuel-cell technology
26 Mar: Boeing subsidiary Insitu has revealed fresh details about its ongoing work to advance hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The company said in a 21 March statement that it has successfully completed the first fill test of a liquid hydrogen (LH 2) storage tank designed for its ScanEagle 3 mini-UAV. The trial – which was carried out at Washington State University’s Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HyPER) laboratory in February – comprised liquid hydrogen fill, pressure, and vapour generation testing.
DroneShield aims to further exploit AI for C-UAS development, introduces updated products
25 Mar: DroneShield will focus on upgrading its artificial intelligence (AI)-based detection and classification software in the coming years to develop an increasingly flexible approach that reduces reliance on data libraries, company officials told Janes in late March. The Australian company– which specialises in countering potential threats like unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and even in areas such as signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic warfare (EW) – rolled out its first fully machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI)-based software to all existing customers in February as part of its quarterly software update programme.
Turbulence simulation: New techniques advance US Army research
15 Mar: New US Army Research Office (ARO)-sponsored work could enable armed forces and industry to more accurately simulate turbulence at a lower cost than current methods, holding significant implications for developing helicopters, missiles, and various defence technologies. The Coherent-vorticity-Preserving Large-Eddy Simulation (CvP-LES) was developed by researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, with funding from ARO, part of the US Army Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory (ARL).
04 Mar: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Speed Racer unmanned flight vehicle digital engineering pilot project is about quickly configuring the vehicle for different missions desired by a customer, according to experts. Lockheed Martin released an image of the Speed Racer on 11 February. The same day, company spokesperson Ananda Costa said that the company was expecting delivery of Technical Directions Inc engines imminently, at which point the company would move into ground testing.
Boeing’s ‘Loyal Wingman’ UAV makes maiden flight
02 Mar: Boeing Australia has successfully conducted the maiden flight of the ‘Loyal Wingman’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) it is developing in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the company announced on 2 March. The first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years flew for an undisclosed time under the supervision of a Boeing test pilot who monitored the aircraft from a ground control station at the Woomera range complex in South Australia.
24 Mar: Since the advent of submarines, navies have had to account for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) concepts and capabilities. Today, as adversaries of Western navies increasingly recognise a submarine’s tactical, operational, and strategic utility, ASW is resurfacing as a core, high-end capability delivering advantages in the underwater domain and more widely at sea. A new factor in the ASW equation are unmanned systems, especially, although not exclusively, unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
ONR explores USV power-generation concepts
24 Mar: The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) is launching a new science and technology effort aimed at advancing the development of power-generation systems suitable for long range/long endurance unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). Aimed at maturing technologies and techniques at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3-4, the Robust Unmanned Platform Power Systems research thrust is aligned to the US Navy’s (USN’s) interest in developing low cost, high endurance reconfigurable USVs that can accommodate various payloads.
Magnetic attraction: MAD seeks a comeback for airborne ASW
12 Mar: While airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets have traditionally relied on active and/or passive acoustics for area search, detection, classification, and localisation, the contribution to be made by other sensors should not be ignored. For example, maritime surveillance radars utilising specialist small target detection modes are capable of picking up raised periscopes or masts, while electronic support measures systems can intercept and direction-find on radar and/or communications transmissions.
Uncharted waters: NAVSEA steams into a new cyber arena
08 Mar: Red flags concerning long-standing gaps in network security at US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the wider service raised in 2019 prompted command officials to stand up a new directorate in April 2020 to oversee development of cyber capabilities and contingencies associated with the service’s digital transformation efforts. “We are looking hard at everything to do with cyber and shoring up our systems quite a bit,” said Vice Admiral Jeffrey Trussler, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2/N6), during an Intelligence and National Security Alliance-sponsored event in Washington, DC, in January.
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