Boeing has announced that it has retrofitted a number of retired Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets with equipment enabling them to be flown remotely without a pilot. In conjunction with the US Air Force, the company recently flew one of these unmanned jets, performing combat maneuvers and a perfect center line landing.
The converted F-16, one of many that had been “mothballed” for 15 years at a site in Arizona, was controlled remotely by two US Air Force pilots located at a ground control facility. During the test flight, the plane cruised at 40,000 ft (12,200 m) and reached speeds of Mach 1.47. It then performed a series of maneuvers, including barrel rolls and a “split S” (where the pilot rolls his aircraft upside down and flies a descending half-loop, achieving level flight in the opposite direction at a lower altitude).
The unmanned jet took off from a base in Florida and flew to the Gulf of Mexico, and was trailed at all times by two chase planes monitoring its course. “It flew great, everything worked great, [it] made a beautiful landing – probably one of the best landings I’ve ever seen,” said the project’s chief engineer Paul Cejas. Should the need have arisen however, the F-16 was equipped with a ground-operated self-destruct mechanism.
One of the major advantages of not having a pilot on-board a jet fighter, is the ability to stress the plane to higher limits without fear of losing human life. During this flight however, the aircraft was only tested at 7Gs of acceleration even though an unmanned, fly-by-wire F-16 should be quite capable of performing maneuvers at 9Gs.
Boeing and the US Air Force revealed that the converted F-16s, re-designated as QF-16s, would be used in the training of pilots, providing drones for target practice and live fire tests. “Now we have a mission capable, highly sustainable full scale aerial target to take us into the future,” Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, Commander, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, is quoted as saying in a Boeing press release.
The US Air Force has been using jet fighters as target drones since the mid-1970s. Most recently, Phantom F-4s (QF-4) have been re-fitted for this purpose, however the number of F-4 airframes that are capable of being converted without excessive rework is declining. More importantly, the QF-4’s ability to represent the performance of a modern day fighter has decreased over the years. The QF-16 is its newly-designated replacement.
Boeing now has six modified QF-16s and plans an initial low-rate production schedule beginning fourth quarter of this year, for delivery in 2015.
The video below shows the QF-16 unmanned flight, combat maneuvers and landing.
For more information click the source link below and watch the Youtube video.
The likelihood of lasers appearing on the battlefield was boosted last week when Boeing announced that its Thin Disk Laser system had achieved unexpected levels of power and efficiency. In a recent demonstration for the US Department of Defense, the laser’s output was 30 percent higher than project requirements and had greater beam quality, a result which paves the way toward a practical tactical laser weapon.
As it says on the tin, the Boeing Thin Disk Laser system uses a thin disc laser. Also known as an active mirror laser, this type of solid state laser was first developed in the 1990s. Instead of rods, as is found in most solid-state lasers, the thin disk laser uses a layer of lasing material with a thickness less than the diameter of the beam it emits. This layer acts as both the gain medium or amplifier of the laser and as the mirror that reflects the beam.
Behind this layer is a thick substrate that acts as a heat sink. This draws the heat generated by the lasing layer away quickly, which greatly increases the laser’s power and efficiency. Boeing’s system incorporates a number of these high-powered industrial lasers to generate a single, high-energy beam.
According to Boeing, the latest version of the the laser has an output of more than 30 kW, which is 30 percent more than the Department of Defense’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) requirements, with a similar increase in efficiency.
“These demonstrations prove the military utility of laser systems,” says Michael Rinn, Boeing Directed Energy Systems vice president and program director. “In order to be truly viable as a weapons-class system, a laser must achieve high brightness while simultaneously remaining efficient at higher power. Our team has shown that we have the necessary power, the beam quality, and the efficiency to deliver such a system to the battlefield.”
BlackBerry has announced today that the US Defense Information System Agency (DISA) has given both the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 the Authority to Operate (ATO) on the Department of Defense (DoD) networks, making BlackBerry the first Mobile Device Management (MDM) to obtain an ATO. With the ATO, the DISA is prepping to support 10,000 BB10 devices by the fall and over 30,000 but the end of 2013.
Press Release below:
BlackBerry Awarded “Authority to Operate” on U.S. Department of Defense Networks
DISA deploying BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 to support BlackBerry 10 smartphones on DoD networks
WATERLOO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – August 08, 2013) – BlackBerry® (NASDAQ: BBRY)(TSX: BB) today announced the U.S. Defense Information System Agency (DISA) has given BlackBerry® Z10 and BlackBerry® Q10 smartphones with BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10, the Authority to Operate (ATO) on Department of Defense (DoD) networks. BlackBerry is the first Mobile Device Management (MDM) provider to obtain an ATO.
With the ATO, DISA is now developing the infrastructure to support BlackBerry 10 smartphones. DISA is architecting the capacity to support 10,000 BlackBerry 10 smartphones by this fall and 30,000 by the end of 2013 on DoD networks.
“Being the first smartphones to be supported on U.S. Department of Defense networks further establishes BlackBerry’s proven and validated security model,” said Scott Totzke, SVP, BlackBerry Security Group at BlackBerry. “With foreign entities – governmental and criminal – ramping up attacks on electronic communications and information systems, BlackBerry provides government agencies with a proven partner that follows top-to-bottom security protocols.”
Receiving the ATO is a critical step forward in the security certification process. The approval demonstrates that BlackBerry 10 smartphones meet DoD’s most stringent security requirements. BlackBerry 10 smartphones will enable DoD personnel to have the ability to securely connect to networks and access assets from work. The BlackBerry mobile infrastructure provides a highly responsive, intelligent and intuitive mobile computing experience while ensuring the personal and the corporate information on a user’s phone are kept separate and safe.
For more information about BlackBerry 10, please visit: http://www.blackberry.com/BB10.
Unless you’ve been there yourself, it’s hard to imagine being a soldier in the field, trekking through rugged terrain while carrying gear weighing 100 lbs (45.35 kg) and beyond. There has a been a lot of research into exoskeleton over the years to alleviate these heavy loads, but strapping a person into a robotic outfit just isn’t practical in a combat zone yet. Instead, DARPA’s Warrior Web program aims to build a lightweight suit that improves a soldier’s endurance and overall effectiveness, while preventing injuries.
The basic goal of the Warrior Web program is to produce a soft, flexible suit that can be worn underneath clothes to redistribute the wearer’s weight without any added discomfort. Ideally, the final suit would specifically accommodate the soft tissues connected to the skeletal system as well as ankle, knee, and hip joints to reduce the chance of injury. The developers would also like the suit to augment the wearer’s muscle movements and detect any injuries, while only requiring 100W of electric power or less from a small battery.
The project seems similar to Harvard’s “smart suit,” which was also funded by DARPA, but the Warrior Web adds more electronics and focuses on carrying abilities. Though the program is mainly geared towards improving soldiers’ effectiveness in combat, DARPA is also exploring how the suit could be used to help locate and heal certain injuries.
Researchers are currently working on identifying which features would be absolutely required for the Warrior Web to function correctly, and then producing them. Their goal is to provide five essential components to the user: core injury mitigation technologies, comprehensive analytical representations, regenerative actuation, adaptive sensing and control, and a suit human-to-wearer interface.
Over the past five months, the US Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate (ARL HRED) has been evaluating a number of prototypes to determine which approaches would work best to meet the program’s goals. Using a motion capture system and numerous sensors, the research team has been studying how various devices affect a soldier’s gait, balance, oxygen consumption, and muscle activity, among other traits. Later this year, the group plans to integrate the selected technologies into a wearable suit and begin testing its capabilities under realistic conditions.
The brief video below shows how a prototype Warrior Web is tested while a soldier carries a 61-lb (27.67-kg) load.
The LifeBot 5 Telemedicine Tool Allows Doctors to Read Data and Send Instructions to Remote Medics in Real-Time
While people such as emergency medical technicians and army medics are true lifesavers, there are times when they could benefit from the resources or expertise of a hospital-based physician. That’s where all-in-one portable telemedicine units like the LifeBot 5 come into play.
Although the device isn’t the only one of its kind, the LifeBot company claims that it is “the world’s smallest, lightest, most advanced portable mobile telemedicine system.”
Weighing in at 15 pounds (6.8 kg), it is able to monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, plus it is capable of performing electrocardiography and ultrasound. It can also transmit video and audio. Future versions may additionally include a defibrillator.
Data is sent securely via 4G, 3G, LTE, WiMax, cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite, and/or data radio connections – the machine automatically selects whatever system(s) work best for the given situation. Remotely-located doctors are then able to view a patient’s vital signs and other data with a delay of only a few seconds, and offer real-time guidance to the on-site medical personnel. Multiple LifeBot units can also communicate with one another, allowing for collaborative efforts on difficult procedures.
The original version of the device was developed using Department of Defense grants of US$14 million from the Telemedicine and Technology Research Center and U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
Prices for the LifeBot 5 begin at under $20,000.
Space Exploration Technologies, led by billionaire Elon Musk, is poised to break into the U.S. military’s $70 billion launch market after winning its first missions from the Pentagon.
The Defense Department on Nov. 27 directed the Air Force to end a launch monopoly held by the government’s two biggest contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. A week later, the service awarded the trial missions to Musk’s firm, known as SpaceX.
The Lockheed-Boeing venture has had a lock on the business for six years. SpaceX, which recently showed it could fly to the international space station, now has the opportunity to prove that its rockets are capable of launching satellites serving Pentagon planners, ground troops and the nation’s spies.
“The one market they have really yet to crack so far is the military launch market,” said Jeffrey Foust, a senior analyst at Futron, a technology consulting firm based in Bethesda. “They’re just starting to do that now.”
The two launches were awarded to Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX under an Air Force contract valued at as much as $900 million. The missions, scheduled for 2014 and 2015, are designed to help the company become certified to carry the military and spy satellites.
Musk, who also leads electric automaker Tesla Motors, in a Dec. 5 statement called the Air Force’s decision a “vote of confidence.’’
SpaceX twice this year flew its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft, which delivered cargo to the space station. With the new military business, executives see the firm’s total launch business as stable, if not growing, company President Gwynne Shotwell said at a Dec. 11 space industry luncheon in Washington.
“Now, I think a big challenge is for us to do this hard job and produce the vehicles and launch them reliably,’’ she said.
Robert Stevens, chairman and chief executive of Lockheed, poked fun at SpaceX’s inexperience.
The Lockheed-Boeing venture, known as United Launch Alliance, has launched “hundreds of billions of dollars’’ of satellites on 66 consecutive missions, Stevens said at a Dec. 14 Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington.
“I’m hugely pleased with 66 in a row from ULA, and I don’t know the record of SpaceX yet,’’ he said. “Two in a row?’’
Although Centennial, Colo.based United Launch Alliance has a successful launch record, it has struggled to control costs.
The average price of its Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets is estimated at $464 million a launch, more than double a previous estimate of $230 million, according to the Pentagon.
“Cost doesn’t matter at all if you don’t put the ball into orbit,’’ said Lockheed’s Stevens, who is retiring as chief executive and will be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Marillyn Hewson on Jan. 1. “You can thrift on cost. You can take cost out of a rocket. But I will guarantee you, in my experience, when you start pulling a lot of costs out of a rocket, your quality and your probability of success in delivering a payload to orbit diminishes.’’
Responding to Stevens, Musk said in an e-mailed statement that “all of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missions have reached orbit and completed all primary mission objectives.”
On the cost issue, Musk said: “The fundamental reason SpaceX’s rockets are lower cost and more powerful is that our technology is significantly more advanced than that of the Lockheed-Boeing rockets, which were designed last century.”
SpaceX’s October launch to the space station was the first of at least a dozen cargo flights under a NASA contract valued at $1.6 billion.
Although SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted a cargo ship to the space station, the mission wasn’t flawless. Less than two minutes after liftoff, one of the rocket’s nine engines shut off, causing the loss of a communications satellite made by Orbcomm.
SpaceX is investigating what caused the engine failure. The company will need to avoid these kinds of malfunctions to get a piece of the Defense Department’s biggest launch program, said Foust, the Futron analyst.
“They need to build up a track record of success and allay any concerns at the Pentagon about turning over very expensive and very important national security business to anyone other than ULA,’’ Foust said.
The program, known in military parlance as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, is estimated to cost $70 billion through fiscal 2030.
SpaceX lists the Falcon 9 at $54 million a liftoff. The company is building a bigger rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, which it says will be second in size only to the Apollo-era Saturn V and cost between $80 million and $125 million a liftoff. It plans to launch it for the first time in the second half of 2013.
Shotwell said the military launch costs will be higher in part because of the additional requirements. She didn’t elaborate on the prices.
SpaceX officials want the company to get its military certification in 2014. It will need to launch each version of a rocket successfully three times before it can receive the Defense Department’s approval, Shotwell said.
Air Force Major Eric Badger, a Pentagon spokesman, said the service is “making great progress with SpaceX.’’
The military next year plans to evaluate the design and engineering of SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 rocket to verify it “has the reliability required to launch high-value national security spacecraft,’’ Badger said in an e-mail.
Via: Washington Post
The Air Force has enlisted the help of ESPN in order to go through and perform a thorough analysis on the copious amounts of video footage recorded from drone missions. Considering how the total number of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) there are scouring the world, with a ton of footage being transmitted back to base in real-time, the Air Force has an unenviable task of poring over the data. They have then decided to enlist some assistance from the outside world, and this is where ESPN comes in.
David Deptula, a former Air Force lieutenant general, reportedly mentioned to USA Today, “We need to be careful we don’t drown in the data.” In 2011 alone, drone video transmissions amounted to some 327,384 hours of surveillance, where the majority of them comprise of “pattern of life” missions, where they involve recording compounds for days in a stretch. ESPN’s role would see them fall back on their expertise in sorting through the large amounts of game footage every single day, but bear in mind that no new technological breakthroughs were achieved.
DARPA has begun development of a wireless communications link that is capable of 100 gigabits per second over a range of 200 kilometers (124mi). Officially dubbed “100 Gb/s RF Backbone” (or 100G for short), the program will provide the US military with networks that are around 500 times faster than its current wireless links.
In essence, DARPA wants to give deployed soldiers the same kind of connectivity as a high-bandwidth, low-latency fiber-optic network. In the case of Afghanistan, for example, the US might have a high-speed fiber link to Turkey — but the remaining 1,000 miles to Afghanistan most likely consists of low-bandwidth, high-latency links. It’s difficult (and potentially insecure) to control UAVs or send/receive intelligence over these networks, and so the US military instead builds its own wireless network using Common Data Link.
Common Data Link (CDL) is a secure wireless protocol that networks together a US military deployment, for shuttling around imagery, intelligence, orders, and so on. UAVs, aircraft carriers, helicopters, forward operating bases — they’re all connected together via wireless CDL links, bounced via high-altitude aircraft or orbiting satellites. Exact, up-to-date specs are hard to come by, but it seems like the US military’s existing CDL links max out at around 250Mbps. DARPA now wants to push these speeds up to 100Gbps, while using equipment that retains the same weight/power requirements of CDL — i.e. these 100G systems must be deployable in the field.
Suffice it to say, transmitting 100Gbps through the air is rather difficult; your home WiFi network probably maxes out at around 100Mbps, some thousand times slower. We’ve written about visible light links that operate at speeds up to 2.5Tbps — but only over a distance of one meter. Free-space optical communication isn’t viable though, because clouds tend to get in the way when you’re talking about 200-kilometer-long links. The only real option is RF, but again, transmitting 100Gbps over a 200-kilometer RF link is very tough.
The only RF link that is really comparable is ViaSat-1, a geosynchronous Ka-band communications satellite that sits above the USA, which has a total capacity of 134Gbps — but that’s the combined total of 56 Ka transponders, so the actual bandwidth per link is much lower. In all likelihood, DARPA’s 100G program will probably use the lower-frequency Ku band, which is less susceptible to rain fade (or degradation caused by other inclement atmospheric conditions). Assuming the right encoding/multiplexing techniques can be discovered, there should be plenty of bandwidth in either the Ka or Ku bands to hit 100Gbps.
DARPA clearly states that the 100G program is for US military use — but it’s hard to ignore the repercussions it might have on commercial networks, too. I’m surprised that it has fallen to DARPA to develop an ultra-high-speed point-to-point wireless technology. 100Gbps wireless backhaul links between cell towers, rather than costly and cumbersome fiber links, would make it much easier and cheaper to roll out additional mobile coverage. Likewise, 100Gbps wireless links might be the ideal way to provide backhaul links to rural communities that are still stuck with dial-up internet access, or additional backbone bandwidth during peak periods. One day, you might even have a 100Gbps wireless link from your home to your ISP.
Via: Extreme Tech
The Hsinchu base is a brand new top secret $1.2 billion radar facility in Taiwan. The above image is a screen shot of Apple’s iOS Maps that clearly shows the location of this military base.
Since this was located using Apple’s new mapping software, that means there are millions of people with access to satellite images of a classified military facility.
The importance of the Hsinchu base is pretty large according to PhysOrg:
- The Hsinchu base houses a cutting-edge long-range radar procured from the United States in 2003. Construction of the radar is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The ultra-high-frequency radar, supplied by US defence group Raytheon, is capable of detecting missiles launched as far away as Xinjiang in China’s northwest, military officials say. They say the radar, which cost $1.23 billion, is designed to give Taiwan minutes of extra warning in case of a Chinese missile attack.
There are solid-state high-energy lasers already being tested on the sea and in the air, now Boeing is continuing development of a truck-mounted system.
The system is similar in concept to Boeing’s Laser Avenger that is intended for combating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), but boasts a more powerful laser for countering a wider variety of threats, including rockets, artillery, mortars, as well as UAVs.
In 2009, testing of the Laser Avenger used a 1-kilowatt, solid-state laser system mounted on an Avenger ground combat vehicle. But this truck-mounted system will use a 10-kilowatt, solid-state laser incorporated with the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) system, with an even more powerful laser to be used in the future according to Boeing.
The HEL MD program will now enter Phase II high-power testing as part of a follow-on contract that supports development and testing for the next three years. This is a joint development effort between Boeing and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC).
Field tests using the high-power, solid-state laser will be conducted over the next year to demonstrate the system’s ability to “acquire, track, damage and defeat threat-representative targets.”