Daily Briefing: News Snippets

Following the trend of an increasing number of 3U (and sometimes even smaller) form factors enlisting for duty, prime Northrop Grumman recently marshaled yet another ware for the U.S. Army’s Small Tactical Airborne Radar (STARLite) synthetic aperture radar (Figure 1): BittWare’s GT-3U-cPCI (GT3U) ruggedized 3U CompactPCI board. The agreement stipulates delivery of an unquantified “large production order” of the GT3U hybrid signal processing boards, which are powered by an onboard Altera Stratix II GX FPGA and a group of four onboard ADSP-TS201S TigerSHARC DSPs for flexibility. The boards will provide STARLite’s “high-end” signal processing, which combines numerous radar images into a single high-res image, with the goals of target coordination and unprecedented situational awareness for ground-troop protection plus increased surveillance capabilities.

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Figure 1: STARLite synthetic aperture radar image of Fort Huachuca facilities, courtesy of Northrop Grumman

RFID system spins ‘military technology’

The phrase “military technology” often conjures mental images of warfighters’ battlefield wares. However, the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (MCBH) is giving the phrase a slightly different spin, thanks to a Web-based RFID tracking system by 3M, slated to enable Anchorage’s Alaska National Guard and MCBH in more efficiently managing 40,000+ personnel records. The result: a projected accuracy increase plus a man-hour decrease equating to about $1.5 million per year. The primary catalyst: 3M’s File Tracking Software V3.0, proven at the recent Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s pilot RFID project and used with 3M’s D4 RFID tag. File Tracking Software V3.0 supports Windows Vista and offers Internet reporting and locating capabilities that render it usable on any Web-browser-enabled computer. Consequently, custom reports and item lists are easily generated, and personnel can be more rapidly reassigned or deployed.

RATS welcome on the battlefield, by way of Android

While cell phone manufacturers and consumer gadgeteers were the first to appreciate Google’s Android mobile operating system, defense industry pundits have been quite reluctant about its battlefield suitability. However, a combat-savvy incarnation of Android has emerged as the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS). RATS renders fast delivery of multimedia content such as full motion video and images to warfighters, via intelligence data dissemination utilizing RATS’ Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) Intelligence Backbone (DIB) system architecture. The benefit: DIB content viewing can take place immediately and can be searched by other mobile device users, enabling decision-making within seconds instead of hours. RATS “widget” applications in development are biometric collection including facial recognition, in addition to streaming video camera feeds and license plate reading, Raytheon reports. Rest assured, “some lightweight encryption” will be enabled, as will even more features, Forbes reports. (See Raytheon Sends Android To Battlefield, www.forbes.com/2009/10/19/android-google-military-technology-wireless-raytheon.html)

First OpenVPX contract?

At the speed of light, it seems, the once-controversial OpenVPX Industry Working Group has very recently (and very peacefully) surrendered its recommended VPX system interoperability specification back into VITA/VSO’s hands by way of VITA 65. And only a proverbial minute later … Mercury Computer Systems, who spearheaded the OpenVPX (Figure 2) effort, has already announced “a multimillion-dollar system order from a leading defense supplier” for Mercury’s OpenVPX wares. The unnamed defense supplier will utilize various technologies within Mercury’s (OpenVPX) Ensemble 6000 Series for a global radar update. The deliverable: signal processing tucked inside a heterogenous environment within an overarching infrastructure of robust systems management. The pace: Fast. Mercury’s support and services for complete subsystem development, validation, and qualification will comply with the defense supplier’s Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) requirement: Integrated OpenVPX-based architecture delivery within 10 months (at most) and low-rate initial production in fewer than 16 months.

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Figure 2: Within days of the OpenVPX Industry Working Group sending its recommendations to VITA/VSO, Mercury announced a “multimillion-dollar system order from a leading defense supplier.”
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.4x)

U.S. Army signs a ‘fitting’ contract

The U.S. Army recently put pen to paper for a $19 million Land Warrior maintenance contract with General Dynamics C4 Systems, which stipulates a year of “maintenance” for the presently-in-combat, modular, integrated Land Warrior fighting system ensembles (Figure 3). The team-leader-level ensembles include a small computer that heightens navigation and situational awareness capabilities, a helmet-mounted display, and a radio connectivity headset. Meanwhile, provided under the contract are logistics support and comprehensive engineering, in addition to maintaining returning-from-theater and training ensembles. The contract also affords two option years, which could boost the contract’s value to $50 million. The contract’s inanimate beneficiaries are the U.S. Army’s 300 kits for vehicle integration, along with 900 Land Warrior ensembles and associated Land Warrior equipment.

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Figure 3: A Land Warrior fighting system ensemble, photo courtesy of General Dynamics C4 Systems

Common thread woven among Navy subs

The 109-year-old U.S. Navy submarine force is nothing if not diverse, considering its lineup of SSBN fleet ballistic missile submarines, its SSGN guided-missile submarines, and its SSN attack submarines. But what is the common thread amongst all U.S. Navy subs? They will all soon sport the capability of two-way, real-time communications with surface ships, land-based assets, and aircraft – minus the requirement to emerge to periscope depth – as part of the U.S. Navy’s Communications at Speed and Depth (CSD) program. Having successfully completed a recent CSD Preliminary Design Review (PDR), prime Lockheed Martin plans to reach fait accompli by providing a triad of types of two-way communications buoys plus associated submarine accoutrements and shore equipment. Two genres enable UHF and Iridium satellite transmission, while the third consists of an aircraft- and submarine-launchable acoustic-to-RF gateway system.

C-130E says ‘goodbye’ … and ‘hello’

U.S. Air Force officials at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base recently bid a fond farewell to their final C-130E Hercules (Figure 4). The C-130E then flew to its new home – the Powidz Air Base in Poland – per a Foreign Military Sales lease agreement between Poland and Air Force Materiel Command, signifying three primary milestones: 1) The C-130E’s conclusion of about 40 USAF service years; 2) a new era for the Polish air force, which previously used the CASA C-295 twin turboprop as its primary aircraft for tactical transport (CASA C-295 can accommodate 70 passengers or 7.5 tons, while the more cargo-savvy C-130E can heft a 17-ton payload or 90 fully equipped passengers); and 3) the United States’ transition to the updated and upgraded C-130J, featuring automation and computerization so advanced that the navigator and flight engineer positions have, consequently, been eliminated.

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Figure 4: U.S. Air Force officials at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base recently said goodbye to their final C-130E Hercules, U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Pierce

Seeing the light … in tunnels, behind walls

Did you see that? Odds are good that the answer is a resounding “no” when an object is located within a tunnel or behind a wall. However, the answer has now changed to “yes,” courtesy of a phase II Department of Army contract with TiaLinx, Inc. The contract affords continued development of a V-band miniature antenna array to be integrated into TiaLinx’s Eagle60 Ultra-wideband (UWB) Radio Frequency (RF) imaging systems. The systems utilize advanced mm-wave RF distributed sensors to enable users to even see movement of live objects within tunnels or behind walls (Figure 5), provide visual detection of landmines or unexploded ordnances, and render land, sea, and air surveillance in smog, rain, and fog.

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Figure 5: A new V-band miniature antenna array means users can even see movement of live objects within tunnels or behind walls.