Daily Briefing: News Snippets

A roundup of the top mil tech and related headlines, including: Ground Combat Vehicle development forges ahead, UAS paradigm shift is up in the air, Raytheon’s jammer eliminating manned aircraft?, and Boeing to refresh the A-10 Thunderbolt, among other headlines.

paradigm shift is up in the air

Long in vogue for ISR missions, UASs are now being evaluated by the U.S. Armed Forces for suitability for cargo delivery to troops in remote locales and on the battlefield; such a paradigm could eliminate the dangers of IEDs to supply-delivering Marines, for example. Key to moving this potential paradigm shift forward is Lockheed Martin’s successful completion of a recent Quick Reaction Assessment () of the K-MAX UAS (Figure 1), as part of the U.S. Navy’s Cargo Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program. A spinoff of Kaman Helicopters’ K-MAX manned helicopter, the K-MAX UAS flies autonomousy or via remote-control operation. Next up: A Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) report is to be issued within 30 days of the QRA, followed by the ’s and U.S. Navy’s assessment of the K-MAX UAS’s deployment feasibility.

Figure 1: Shifting from the long-established UAS-for-ISR tradition, Lockheed Martin successfully finished a recent QRA of the K-MAX UAS built for cargo-carrying purposes. Next up: COMOPTEVFOR issues a QRA report to the USMC/U.S. Navy so they can evaluate deployment suitability. Lockheed Martin photo

RDT&E funding: It’s still out there

Though DoD Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) funds appear to be rapidly dwindling, they recently surfaced, incarnated as an RDT&E contract between the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Teledyne Brown Engineering, Incorporated. Sporting a maximum value of $595 million, the contract stipulates that Teledyne Brown Engineering develops a scalable-, modular-, composable-, reconfigurable-architecture single-objective simulation framework system as a replacement for the current hardware-in-the-loop single-simulation framework systems and the presently used digital simulation architecture. The contract’s completion is anticipated in September 2016.

Ground Combat Vehicle development forges ahead

The Ground Combat Vehicle’s (’s) Technology Development (TD) phase is underway, thanks to a nearly $450 million U.S. Army contract with BAE Systems as prime. The GCV’s TD phase will ensue for 24 months, with the goal of moving the technology into and past the preliminary design review stage. The U.S. Army issued two industry team contracts for GCV TD, and the BAE Systems team includes Northrop Grumman as C4ISR lead, with iRobot Corporation, QinetiQ, Saft, and MTU onboard. The team’s goal is to design an adaptable platform that meets requirements now and in future decades and to provide additional mobility, survivability, and mission versatility at a reasonable price. The key element in the BAE/Northrop Grumman iteration is a hybrid electric drive propulsion system facilitating a lower weight and heightened force-protection capabilities.

Boeing to refresh the

In keeping with the U.S. DoD’s emphasis on modifications and upgrades, the and Boeing recently put pen to paper, spawning a $2.9 million, one-year contract for a modified Digital Video Audio Data Recorder () for the A-10. As an A-10 Thunderbolt Life-cycle Program Support (TLPS) task order contract, the specified ware is anticipated to “provide a near-term solution to supportability issues with a major subcomponent in the DVADR system,” according to a media statement issued by Boeing. The contract is Boeing’s sixth USAF TLPS contract for the A-10. Meanwhile, the single-seat, twin-engine “” (aka “A-10 Thunderbolt II” – see Figure 2) features myriad ground-target munitions and stays close to ground forces. It was first deployed in 1976.

Figure 2: A recent Boeing/USAF contract specifies a modified Digital Video Audio Data Recorder (DVADR) for the A-10 Thunderbolt. USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Army hardware procurement and repair speed up

Getting the right hardware into the hands of soldiers – and having it repaired in a timely fashion when needed – is critical to mission success. Supporting that assertion is a whopping $3.7 billion contract between the U.S. Army and General Dynamics C4 Systems, for Common Hardware Systems-4 (CHS-4). The IDIQ contract spans five years and covers tactical IT services and hardware procurement via either cost plus fixed fee or firm fixed price contracts for noncommercial wares’ service. The goal comprises battlefield sustainability, interoperability, lower life-cycle costs, and compatibility by centralized COTS acquisition. Maintenance, logistics, and repair are provided on a regional basis for procured items such as network devices, notebooks, handheld devices, servers, cables, peripherals, and more (Figure 3). Quantifiable benefits of CHS include timely hardware delivery 99 percent of the time, along with 72-hour turnarounds on hardware replacements or warranty repairs. The end result: operational availability of 97 percent, according to the DoD.

Figure 3: A $3.7 billion U.S. Army/General Dynamics contract for Common Hardware Systems-4 (CHS-4) covers repair, replacement, tactical IT services, and hardware procurement of items such as network devices, notebooks, handheld devices, and more with 99 percent on-time hardware delivery and 72-hour turnaround on repairs. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez

Raytheon’s jammer eliminating manned aircraft?

The ability to reduce the number of aircraft in a conflict yet still achieve the desired results is, clearly, a real plus. And the USAF’s recent successful demonstration of the Raytheon Company-built Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer () in a simulated environment could eliminate or lessen the necessity of using manned jamming aircraft in future real-world scenarios. Specifically, the demonstration illustrated MALD-J’s manned-aircraft protection savvy, as multiple MALD-Js flew in the demo, performing electronic attack missions and exhibiting proficiency in a manned aircraft strike scenario. MALD-J’s range is about 500 nautical miles, and the air-launched, modular flight vehicle tips the scales at under 300 lbs. Next on the docket: a Functional Configuration Audit (FCA) by the government. Thereafter, the USAF is in a position to authorize production later this year, if all goes well, Raytheon reports.

USAF to track new/existing sensor tech, evaluate vendor claims

ISR is vital to successful military ops, and sensors are a key part of the picture. Accordingly, the USAF recently awarded Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp. a nearly $50 million contract spun completely around sensor technology. Under the contract, Georgia Tech is to “perform testing and user evaluations in order to determine the performance of various sensor systems, often against vendor performance claims, and develop recommendations regarding initial or continued use,” per the DoD website. Additional duties under the contract include evaluating new sensor concepts for possible use in fielded systems; developing and prototyping innovative sensor concepts; assessing sensor technologies and quantifying their readiness for Army use; disseminating DoD and other sources’ sensor technology information; offering analysis of current and future threats and recommending sensor technologies that would best thwart them; and educating Rapid Equipping Force, in addition to other federal personnel, about sensor technology use (Figure 4).

Figure 4: A recent USAF/Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp. contract has Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp. providing sensor technology evaluations – including against vendor performance claims – and recommendations in light of present and future threat capabilities.

issuing a duo of contracts

DARPA has been busy, as evidenced by a couple of recent contracts. The first is a nearly $37 million contract to Ball Aerospace Corp. in conjunction with the Moire Program, which has the goal of rendering missile launch tracking and detection – along with real-time, persistent tactical video – to warfighters via diffractive membrane optics. The hope is that the optics will enable inexpensive geosynchronous imaging, and work is slated for completion by early 2013. The second contract is nearly $7 million, extended to SiOnyx, Inc. for technology development under the Portable Photovoltaic Device Program. The goal is to solve issues related to the expense and mass of portable photovoltaic devices while affording a higher level of efficiency in converting power. Contract fulfillment is anticipated by March 2013 (Figure 5).

Figure 5: DARPA issued two contracts recently, including one for nearly $37 million to Ball Aerospace Corp. under the Moire Program, in addition to a second nearly $7 million contract to SiOnyx, Inc. for Portable Photovoltaic Device Program work. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Advin Illa-Medina