Daily Briefing: News Snippets

Data must-haves: Proven reliability, fast transmission

While advanced, battlefield-savvy technology is paramount, what good is it without the ability to transmit data through it – as reliably and quickly as possible? Accordingly, Northrop Grumman continues to ensure reliability via its recent successful second flight test phase completion pertaining to the U.S. Army’s Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) system. The 14-flight test series comprised a NASA-ER2 aircraft (Figure 1) and a Gulfstream II aircraft, both of which featured integrated MR-TCDL. The two aircraft were digitally linked together as well as to specified ground entry points. The testing outcome indicated that MR-TCDL provides data transmission – reliably – in excess of 200 Mbps between aircraft separated by more than 270 nautical miles and between ground networks and more than one aircraft. MR-TCDL additionally facilitates fast extension and connection of wireless and terrestrial wired networks. L-3 Communications Systems is MR-TCDL’s builder.

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Figure 1: A NASA-ER2 aircraft was one of two aircraft participating in Northrop Grumman’s recent MR-TCDL testing. Photo courtesy of NASA
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.3x)

DARPA contract boosts jamming capabilities

DARPA has enlisted BAE Systems National Security Solutions to incarnate “counter-adaptive wireless communication threats” technologies, per a recent $8 million contract between the two entities. The technology will fall under the Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare (BLADE) program umbrella, entailing new techniques and novel algorithms to arm DoD electronic warfare systems with the capability to automatically jam battlefield RF threats – and within appropriate time frames. Contract work will occur at BAE’s Burlington, MA; Piscataway, NJ; and Nashua, NH sites and is slated for completion by May 2012.

Navy subs/ships ride the COTS wave

In the wake of seemingly endless defense spending cuts, the U.S. Navy’s move toward suiting up or refitting its surface ship and submarine systems with open architectures is becoming reality. The evidence: A recent Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract modification of $16 million to The Consulting Network, Inc. The modification covers “required services … related to open architecture concepts” such as hardware and software development and integration, and COTS products procurement for myriad surface ships and Virginia-class/other subs. Services and wares under the contract modification will be proffered when requested by the Navy, with the goal of readying future versions and legacy flavors of Navy systems for Global Information Grid (GIG) and FORCEnet compliance. Contract work is slated for fulfillment by this September. The contracting activity is the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C.

Sensitive mil apps will claim their power

“Sensitive military electronic applications” might soon have a new life force to sustain them, according to a recent contract between the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and City Labs, Inc. The almost $1 million contract specifies that City Labs incarnates long-life batteries for possible use in radar systems, UAVs or drones, computers, aircraft, and sensors (Figure 2). The City Labs battery, based on tritium, can withstand temps of -50 °C to +150 °C, along with extreme altitude and vibration. Used for illuminating Exit signs on commercial aircraft and in commercial buildings, theaters, and schools, tritium is a hydrogen-spawned radioactive isotope. Hence, batteries based on it are touted to last as long as 20 years.

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Figure 2: Radar systems are one type of “sensitive military electronic application” set to benefit from a recent contract between the AFRL and City Labs, Inc. for long-life batteries.

Super Hornets fly in early

Four ahead-of-delivery-schedule iterations of Boeing’s F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole aircraft recently touched down on Australian soil for assimilation by the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) (Figure 3). This latest delivery brings the RAAF’s total F/A-18F Super Hornet ownership to 15, with 9 more on order. The early delivery of the aircraft to Base Amberley facilitated RAAF’s ability to achieve IOC [Initial Operating Capability] faster, as the RAAF transitions from the classic Hornet and F-111. Though all 15 F/A-18F Super Hornets delivered to the RAAF sport Raytheon’s APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, 3 of the 4 recently delivered iterations were “prewired for potential conversion to electronic attack capability,” as will be all remaining RAAF Super Hornets, Boeing reports.

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Figure 3: Boeing recently delivered four more iterations of its F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole aircraft to the Royal Australian Airforce, ahead of schedule. Photo courtesy of the Australian Department of Defence

Unmanned vehicle thwarts sub threats

When a system is autonomous, technicians and other military personnel are free to use their time for other pressing matters. A recent $2 million DARPA contract with prime Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) supports this paradigm, stipulating that SAIC develops an autonomous, unmanned surface vessel concept. Dubbed the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Phase I, the unmanned vessel program’s purpose is to aid in thwarting modern threat submarines. The primary goal: to produce an unmanned surface vessel that sustains ongoing, autonomous tracking of threat submarines. Potential missions include undersea warfare, enforcing “maritime rules of the road,” and continuous at-sea operations. Five other companies will assist SAIC in Phase I, which spans the contract’s six-month duration.

Abrams tank gets away with new configuration

The trusty Abrams M1A2 battle tank is about to undergo a metamorphosis, per a recent U.S. Army contract with General Dynamics Land Systems for $37 million (Figure 4). Accordingly, 42 of the tanks will be re-engineered to sport a new M1A2S configuration for delivery to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The M1A2S variant is reportedly equipped with additional lethality-increasing capabilities and renders reduced obsolescence. General Dynamics is slated to fulfill work under the contract at its Lima, Ohio locale by September 2012. The contracting activity is the U.S. Army TACOM LCMC.

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Figure 4: A recent U.S. Army/General Dynamics Land Systems contract provides for conversion of 42 Abrams M1A2 battle tanks into an M1A2S variant for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

Technology duo benefits from Navy contract

The mention of one-half of any famous pair brings to mind the other half … Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, and certainly for myriad years: MH-60R and MH-60S. Case in point (regarding the latter duo, anyway …): A recent $72 million contract between the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY, stipulates that Lockheed Martin will provide 24 mission avionics systems plus common cockpits for MH-60R (Figure 5). Additionally, MH-60S will benefit from the 18 common cockpits afforded by the contract. Both of the multimission, maritime helicopters’ end-of-life components are also covered under the contract. The contracting activity is the Naval Air Systems Command, and work completion is anticipated by December.

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Figure 5: The oft-paired MH-60R and MH-60S maritime helicopters will benefit from a recent $72 million contract between the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin photo