Daily Briefing: News Snippets

LCMR program continues to backtrack

Where did that come from? … In the heat of battle when mortar is being fired, locating and stopping its source is imperative to mission success – and to survival. Accordingly, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command recently penned a $15.4 million contract with SRCTec for the first production order of the Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar (LCMR) system’s (V)3 (or third) variant. (The first two variants are widely deployed in combat operations.) LCMR – awarded a seat on the U.S. Army’s Top Ten Inventions list – renders 360-degree coverage to facilitate location of mortar threats to in-theatre troops. Also known as AN/TPQ-48 (Figure 1), LCMR’s modus operandi is to backtrack from the mortar shell to find its originating weapon’s position. It is anticipated that the contract will be fulfilled by this September.

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Figure 1: LCMR technicians set up an AN/TPQ-48 for testing in the simulator’s anechoic chamber. U.S. Army photo by Steve Grzezdinski.

Secure Internet: Impossible dream or pending reality?

While the words “secure” and “Internet” don’t sound like they should even go in the same sentence, the phrase “secure Internet” sounds even more like an oxymoron. However, Lockheed Martin (LM) would probably beg to differ, having recently completed a successful Critical Design Review (CDR) of the Airborne, Maritime/Fixed Station Joint Tactical Radio System (AMF JTRS) – touted as “a secure, Internet-like tactical network.” AMF JTRS aims to interconnect warfighters and the Global Information Grid (GIG) via its wideband networking, simplified upgrades, clarity of communications, and non-line-of-sight capabilities. Once 100 percent deployed, AMF JTRS is slated to connect more than 100 platforms and synchronize Navy, Air  Force, and Army assets with soldiers in the field. The AMF JTRS team additionally comprises General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.

Resources … knowledge … resources … knowledge?

In military (or even civilian) life, is it really those with the most toys who win – or is it those with the most knowledge? It’s hard to say 100 percent of the time, but a recent $2 million contract for high-performance data storage and workstations for an airborne surveillance program suggest that the U.S. military is banking on school of thought #2. The contract stipulates that Z Microsystems provides its rack-mountable, ruggedized 2U ZXL2 workstations featuring hot-pluggable drives and slimline DVD-RW for the unidentified program. Optimized with a 550 W power supply and supporting AMD Opteron and Intel Core 2 Duo boards, the ZXL2 is also compatible with PCIe graphics cards. Z Microsystems will additionally supply its rugged removable storage module, dubbed the “TranzPak 7,” providing a single docking station and up to 2 TB storage. TranzPak 7’s removable drive format enables operators to easily remove or plug in whole operating systems at any locale.

UAS controller flies from commercial to military side

Often the most sought-after embedded technology wares are those that can go from commercial use to military adoption with minimal (or no) design adjustments. Accordingly, a recent inaugural “proof of concept” flight demo was held by AAI Corporation and GE Aviation in cooperation with the U.S. Army and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The demonstration’s goal was to show that GE’s Flight Management System (FMS), certified for commercial manned aircraft applications, is a safe mechanism with which existing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) could also be controlled by the U.S. Armed Forces. The initial 45-minute demo flight included vertical and lateral control of the Shadow 200 UAS via FMS. Meanwhile, GE’s flight management systems can be found in the P-8A Poseidon (Figure 2), the C-130 and E-4, Boeing 767 tanker, and many more.

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Figure 2: P-8A Poseidon, photo courtesy of Boeing

Caught in the middle of NASA technology

While the phrase “caught in the middle” typically carries a negative connotation, the center of things is a common locale for modern middleware; however, middleware aims to solve, not perpetuate, issues. Case in point: NASA’s Human-Robotic Systems Project, which includes four very different robots slated to use one common data system. The enabler: Real-Time Innovations (RTI) Data Distribution Service (DDS) middleware. The “players” include Jet Propulsion Lab’s ATHLETE, a six-limbed, large-stature, large payload-carrying robot operating in terrains such as rocky areas and steep slopes; the Lunar Electric Rover (LER) depicted in Figure 3, created by Johnson Space Center and destined to transport astronauts on Mars or the moon; K10, designed by NASA’s Ames Research Center, which operates either independently or via human control as it utilizes a suite of laser scanners and cameras; and Lunar Surface Manipulator System (LSMS), a crane-like robot in development at Langley Research Center and anticipated to assist with loading and assembly tasks on planetary surfaces. The integral DDS middleware will facilitate a single common communications architecture amongst all four robots, providing high-speed communications while reducing ground staffing, simplifying equipment, and eliminating duplicate testing of the robots.

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Figure 3: Lunar Electric Rover (LER), created by Johnson Space Center, is destined to transport astronauts on Mars or the moon.

U.S. DoD entity turns to social media

Hardly a day goes by without the mention of social media. It’s “virtually” everywhere and seemingly used by everyone … almost, anyway: individuals and increasingly by businesses and other entities. Recently, the U.S. DoD’s health-care provider, Tricare, even boarded the social media train. The reason: to provide Tricare’s service recipients – uniformed service members and their families – the opportunity to weigh in on health-care concerns and perhaps influence policy decisions. In a statement to the media, Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, who serves as Tricare Management Activity deputy director, said, “Social media is changing the way we communicate. These powerful tools give us an opportunity to join the conversation surrounding Tricare and military health.” Accordingly, Tricare has active accounts on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Tricare will also seek beneficiary preferences regarding its new media center Web page, slated for a March launch, by checking responses on its Facebook and Twitter accounts beforehand.

“Mighty Mo” returns home

World War II history buffs will recall that the attack on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor began the “day of infamy,” and that the USS Missouri was later the locale of Japan’s surrender in Tokyo Bay (Figure 4). The good news: “Mighty Mo,” after having served faithfully in three wars and five decades now gets her due: The USS Missouri recently made the 2-mile voyage home – after a multimillion-dollar, 12-week drydocking – to Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row’s Pier Foxtrot-5, where she will reside in close proximity to the also-resting USS Arizona Memorial. After decommissioning, USS Missouri was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association, which recently opened the new Battleship Missouri Memorial at the ship’s Pier Foxtrot-5 Pearl Harbor home.

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Figure 4: The USS Missouri recently made the 2-mile voyage home to Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row’s Pier Foxtrot-5, where its new memorial recently opened.

Chinook upgrade validates Newton’s third law

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Proving the centuries-old axiom is BAE Systems, which recently outfitted the military’s CH-47D Chinook with modern fare: the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM) system. (Though Newton couldn’t have predicted helicopters let alone countermeasures, his theory is, nonetheless, validated.) The laser-based ATIRCM’s mission is to protect helicopters from missile attacks via its directable countermeasures system. Though the CH-47D was first deployed in 1982 and in production through 1994, it is still used today in the global war on terror (Figure 5) thanks to modernization efforts such as ATIRCM and others.

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Figure 5: Though the CH-47D was first deployed in 1982 and in production through 1994, it is still used today in the global war on terror.