Friday, June 29, 2012

France’s AASM Precision-Guided Bombs

AASM test from Mirage 2000D

France’s Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) is similar in concept to the American GPS-guided JDAM bomb, but its execution includes several key differences. The global trend toward GPS-guided weapons makes a French entry important for industrial as well as operational reasons, and the Sagem/MBDA team hope AASM will earn them a market niche.
AASM’s execution also included delays, however, which was very inconvenient for France’s new Rafale fighters. Dassault’s Rafale needed a GPS-guided weapon to conduct autonomous precision strikes, but hasn’t integrated America’s JDAM. A dual-mode weapon would have been even better over Afghanistan, combining the moving target capabilities of laser or imaging infrared guidance with JDAM’s all-weather capabilities. France bought Enhanced Paveway weapons as an interim solution, but AASM’s GPS and dual-mode GPS/IIR versions eventually finished development, and the DGA has begun ordering them in quantity. In order to become a true market success, however, Sagem and MBDA know that their AASM will have to find export markets beyond France. Will that place them in conflict with Dassault?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Asian Defense Investments Multiply the Impact of U.S. “Pivot”

A Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15K fighter aircraft. (Photo: Boeing)

A central feature of the Pentagon’s strategic pivot to Asia is a rebalancing of the military’s global force posture. The Navy, for example, is planning to deploy some 60 per cent of its ships to this region, including forward basing a number of its new Littoral Combat Ships. The naval and air base at Guam is being expanded. The Army is examining options for playing a larger role in building partnership capacity with friends and allies. Some 2,500 Marines will be deployed to a base in Northern Australia. 

It will take more than just a subtle redeployment of existing U.S. assets to insure stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s relentless military buildup and North Korea’s continual political bombast must be counterbalanced by increase in military power of all the area’s free and democratic nations. Fortunately, the U.S. military is not the only country beefing up its military capabilities. Washington’s major allies in the Asia-Pacific region are making significant investments in their own security. 

Japan recently decided to acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to replace its aging F-4Js. Japan also is investing in theater missile defenses. It has deployed the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IA on its Aegis-capable destroyers and is working jointly with the United States to design and build the more capable SM-3 Block IIA. In addition, that country’s new defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto, announced that his country intends to strengthen its overall defense capability in the southwest, the region between the Home Islands and Taiwan. This area is part of the so-called First Island Chain that figures prominently in Chinese military plans in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. 

South Korea is in the midst of a major military modernization program. Central to this is a planned acquisition of an advanced air platform. Three systems are in the running to fill Seoul’s requirement for a new fighter: Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle and EADS’s Typhoon. South Korea is also deploying advanced Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems, new antisubmarine surface combatants and long-range UAVs. 

Taiwan would do more and probably even buy more military gear from the United States if the Obama Administration would let it. Per the current agreement with Washington, Taipei is going to upgrade its aging F-16 fighters. What Taiwan really wants to do and what the administration should support is acquisition of up to 100 new advanced variants of the F-16. Taiwan is also investing in a range of capabilities such as stealthy surface combatants and antiship cruise missiles designed to counter the amphibious warfare threat from the mainland. 

Australia, one of America’s closest allies, is in the midst of a major military modernization program. The future Royal Australian Air Force will be based around the F-35, C-17 transports, the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C), a replacement for the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and new air-to-air refuelers. The Royal Australian Navy will acquire a new class of guided missile destroyers and an expanded fleet of submarines, the successors to the Collins class SSN. The Royal Australian Army is exploiting the lessons learned from a decade of combat in Southwest Asia. It is investing in unmanned aerial systems, improved force protection capabilities and tactical networks. 

Even as United States allies in Europe decrease their defense spending and shrink their military establishments, those in Asia are looking to improve national capabilities and tie their forces ever more closely to those of the united States. These programs cannot help but have a positive impact on the security of the Asia-Pacific region. 

Daniel Goure, Ph.D. 
Early Warning Blog, Lexington Institute

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Northrop Grumman to Modify E-6B With High-Speed, Secure Networking and Communications

A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft over eastern Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. DoD, Michael B. Keller)

SAN DIEGO | The U.S. Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a $44.3 million contract to integrate high-speed, secure communications and networking systems on an E-6B Mercury aircraft, part of the Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) strategic communications relay mission. 

Navy E-6B TACAMO aircraft provide survivable and reliable airborne command, control and communications between the president of the United States, secretary of Defense, and U.S. strategic and nonstrategic forces. 

With the Block II Modification, the E-6B aircraft will be able to connect to secure U.S. Department of Defense networks at high data rates while still in flight. The upgrade will enable users on board the aircraft to access mission-essential, near-real-time information from worldwide sources without impacting the operational performance of the aircraft. 

"Northrop Grumman's innovative approach to integration allows the government to rapidly field emerging technologies for vital defense missions such as TACAMO within existing budget constraints," said Claude Hashem, vice president of network communications systems for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. "The Block II Modification will provide the E-6B community with superior networking capability that enables a significant increase in operational capability." 

Northrop Grumman will design and produce networking and communications systems, first integrating the systems into the E-6B Systems Integration Laboratory and then on a single E-6B aircraft. Under the contract, awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command, Northrop Grumman will also provide testing, logistics and training to support operational fielding. 

The Navy intends to field the enhanced capability to the entire fleet of E-6B aircraft through a follow-on contract. Navy E-6B aircraft are used to conduct both the TACAMO and U.S. Strategic Command Airborne Command Post missions.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Backpack Guided Missiles

Israel is now exporting its 75mm Mini-Spike lightweight guided missiles. Three years ago an Israeli firm introduced this lighter, smaller guided missile system for Israeli forces. This is the smallest member of the Spike guided missile family, which all share many common components and technologies.

The Mini-Spike was designed for company and platoon size units in need of a lightweight precision attack weapon. Mini-Spike weighs 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds) and is designed for operation by one man. Max range is 1,200 meters. 

The missile uses a "fire and forget" guidance system. That is, once the operator gets the target in the CLU crosshairs and fires the missile the computer and seeker in the missile warhead memorizes the target and homes in on it. The infantry love this because it allows them to take cover once the missile is fired. The operator can also order the missile fly straight, high or low towards the target. The CLU has night vision and video recording capability and can be used just for surveillance.

Mini-Spike consists of two components. There is an 8 kg (11.6 pound) CLU (Command and Launch Unit) for indicating the target and sending radio signals to the missile. Individual missiles come in firing containers weighing 4 kg (8.8 pounds) loaded. A soldier typically will carry the CLU and two missiles. There is also an optional tripod available. The missile warhead is designed to kill or injure people and destroy structures, not penetrate armor. The operator can deactivate the warhead after launch, to minimize collateral damage.

Mini-Spike is meant to provide a cheaper and smaller (and more portable) alternative to missiles like the U.S. Javelin. Introduced in 2002, Javelin weighs 22.3 kg (49 pounds, with disposable launch tube and battery/seeker coolant unit) and is fired from a 6.4 kg (14 pound) CLU (command launch unit). The CLU contains a 4x day sight and a 9x heat sensing night sight. 

The missile has a tandem (two warheads to blast through reactive armor) that can hit a target straight on or from the top. This latter capability enables the Javelin to destroy any existing tank (including the U.S. M1) with its 8.2 kg (18 pound) warhead. Maximum range is 2,500 meters. Best of all, the seeker on the missile is "fire and forget." 

Mini-Spike costs about half what Javelin systems go for and are easier for infantry to carry around. Infantry rarely need a missile as powerful as Javelin. More frequently the demand is for something smaller like Mini-Spike.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Boeing Looks To Return Phantom Eye To Flight This Year

Edwards AFB, Calif. — Boeing is hoping to return the liquid hydrogen-fueled Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft demonstrator to flight this year after the air vehicle suffered damage on landing following its June 1 first flight.
The root cause analysis and damage assessment of the Phantom Eye is now near its end, with the final root cause analysis for the nose landing gear failure due next week, says Boeing’s program manager, Andrew Mallow. The problem appears linked to the design of the gear, rather than a materials issue.

Most of the damage to the Phantom Eye is structural (on the wing and nose section, for instance) and appears relatively easy to fix. Some strengthening of parts of the structure may be needed for a more robust nose landing gear.
Once the assessment is finalized, a new program plan will be set, Mallow says, noting that he’d like to see the air vehicle fly again this year.

Boeing has brought in some F/A-18 landing gear experts to help with the redesign. The skid main landing gear proved itself in the first flight, although minor changes may be made.
The overall program impact is relatively minor, Mallow suggests, noting that Boeing already was considering an aircraft modification after first flight to implement some electrical changes and make an oil pump change.

Phantom Eye flew for 28 min. at Edwards AFB, Calif., and reached around 4,000 ft. The near-term plan would be to reach 10,000 ft. and then increase altitude to 65,000 ft. in 10,000-ft. increments. The vehicle is designed to stay aloft four days, but that may never be tested mainly because of the logistics of personnel management for such an effort.
An operational version would be designed to stay airborne up to 10 days, depending on the payload size. Carrying around 2,500 lb. of payload would result in an endurance of around seven days. The vehicle would have a 250-ft. wingspan.

Boeing sees Phantom Eye benefitting even as the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft and the Blue Devil 2 airship suffer under Air Force budget pressure. The financial constraints “we see as a benefit,” says James Dodd, vice president of Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft at Boeing Phantom Works. “Phantom Eye’s cost per flight hour is a lot less than particularly Global Hawk,” he asserts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Northrop Grumman Logs $87.8 Million FMS Contract for APG-68(V)9 Radars

Royal Thai Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft take off.

Company to Supply Airborne Fire Control Radars to Thailand, Iraq and Oman

BALTIMORE | Northrop Grumman Corporation has received an $87.8 million foreign military sales (FMS) contract to provide the APG-68(V)9 airborne fire control radar to Thailand, Iraq and Oman for use on F-16 fighter aircraft. 

The company will deliver six radar systems to the Royal Thai Air Force, 22 radar systems to the Iraqi air force and 15 radar systems to the Royal Air Force of Oman, for a total of 43 systems. Deliveries are expected to be completed by March 2015. The FMS contract is managed by the Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

“Selection of the APG-68(V)9 Fire Control Radar by Thailand, Oman and Iraq reaffirms its value and baseline position for all new F-16 production and F-16 avionics upgrades,” said Tim Winter, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for Global Systems Solutions. “The APG-68(V)9 radar’s operational performance, affordable acquisition cost, low sustainment cost and immediate availability has led 12 nations to procure almost 750 systems so far.” 

The APG-68(V)9 enables engagement of air-to-air and air-to-surface threats with greater accuracy and at greater ranges than legacy F-16 fire control radars. The radar provides autonomous, all-environment, precision air-to-surface targeting with a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar ground mapping mode.

Northrop Grumman has been developing, integrating and producing F-16 fire control radars for 36 years. This includes three variants of the APG-66; eight variants of the APG-68; the APG-80 Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), developed specifically for the F-16 Block 60; and the newly introduced Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) AESA. The company’s long heritage in fire control radars also includes fire control radars for the B-1, F-22 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 

The contract is in line with U.S. defense policy of enabling the Iraqi air force to assume sovereign air defense duties, and also supports foreign relations with partners Thailand and Oman.

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First Asymmetric Weapons Load Test for F-35B

(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. | On June 14, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. Cmdr. 

Eric Buus flew BF-2 with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard weapon bay. Significant weapons testing for the F-35B and F-35C variants is in progress, including fit checks, captive carriage environment characterization, and pit drops. Aerial weapons separation testing is scheduled for this summer. 

The F-35B is the variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, capable of short take-offs and vertical landings for use on amphibious ships or expeditionary airfields to provide air power to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The F-35B is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River prior to delivery to the fleet. 

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Dutch MoD Seeks Opportunities to Sell Surplus Equipment - Romania Interested in F-16s

A Dutch Air Force F-16s leaves Volkel air base on its ferry flight to Chile. (Photo: Dutch MoD)

Romania is interested in buying 15 surplus F-16’s from the Dutch Air Force. A number of other countries have also shown interest in Dutch military vehicles and ordnance. 

On Thursday, the Dutch Ministry of Defence confirmed reports that it is looking to sell equipment in order to raise funds. It is not clear how much money the Netherlands will be able to raise with the sale of the fighter jets. 

The defence ministry must shave a billion euros from its budget. The ministry is also in preliminary discussions with an undisclosed number of potential buyers, including Chile, which are interested in eight Cougar helicopters. 

Yesterday, parliament discussed the potential sale of 80 Leopard tanks to Indonesia. The ministries of defence and foreign affairs are in favour of the sale but a majority in parliament is against the transaction. The tanks would be sold for 200 million euros. (Radio Netherlands Worldwide) 

Are Syria's Rebels Getting Foreign Support?

By Scott Stewart

A video recently posted to the Internet depicting an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Syria has garnered a great deal of attention. A Syrian militant group called the Hawks Brigade of the Levant claimed the attack, which targeted a Syrian government armored troop bus as it traveled along a road near a rebel stronghold in the Idlib governorate. According to the group, the attack depicted in the video employed a type of IED called an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). Though the video was shot from a fairly long distance away, it does appear that the IED punched a substantial and focused hole through the armored bus -- precisely the type of effect that would be expected if an EFP were employed against such a target.
EFPs are a logical tool for militants to use against superior government forces that are heavily dependent upon armor. EFPs pose a significant threat to armored vehicles, which the Syrian military has utilized extensively, and quite effectively, in its campaign against Syrian rebel groups.
Studying the IED technology employed by a militant group is an important way to determine the group's logistics situation and trajectory. It can also be a way to discern if a group is receiving outside training and logistical assistance.

Explosively Formed Penetrators

An explosively formed penetrator, sometimes called an explosively formed projectile, is a simple device composed of a case, a liner and explosive filler. EFPs have been part of many countries' military inventories for years. The U.S. Army, for example, added the M2 Selectable Lightweight Attack Munition (aptly named the SLAM) to its inventory in 1990. Improvised EFP devices can also be constructed by non-state actors; they were widely used to target U.S. military vehicles in Iraq.
The employment of an EFP device in the field also requires a detonator and a firing chain to initiate the detonator. The firing chain can vary widely, from a hardwired command-detonated system to an improvised victim-actuated system that is triggered inadvertently by the target and involves modifying things like the infrared safety beam from a garage door opener. 
The case of an improvised EFP is often constructed from a short section of well-casing pipe with a steel plate welded to one end. A small hole is drilled in the plate to allow a blasting cap to be inserted. The pipe is then filled with high explosive, and a metal liner -- most often made of copper -- is affixed over the open end of the pipe.
EFPs utilize the same general principle as a shaped charge. In a traditional shaped-charge munition like the warhead on an anti-tank rocket, a thin metal cone is used to achieve a focusing effect. When crushed, the concave metal cone in the warhead becomes a molten, high-velocity projectile that, with a jet of super-heated gas from the explosive, penetrates the armor. However, in order for a shaped charge to work most effectively and achieve maximum penetration it must detonate at a precise, relatively short distance from its target. In a munition like a rocket-propelled grenade, an empty space between the nose of the warhead and the copper cone generally provides the required standoff distance.
The EFP munition is somewhat like a traditional shaped charge, but it incorporates a metal liner with less of an angle. So instead of forming a cone, the liner is more of a concave lens or dish shape. The EFP also uses a heavier liner that is formed into a slug or "penetrator" when the device is detonated. The penetrator is then propelled at the target at an extremely high velocity. The difference in the shape and weight of the liner allows the EFP to be deployed from a greater distance than a traditional shaped charge.
Because the components required to construct EFPs are simple, such devices can be fabricated inexpensively and out of readily available materials. Well-casing pipe and steel plate, for example, are widely available in almost any region of the world. Moreover, making the EFP casing from these elements requires little skill and simple machinery, such as a welder, a grinder and a drill.
The copper liner is the sophisticated part of the device, requiring a bit more precision in its fabrication. If the liner is not formed in a precise manner, the devices will tend to spit copper shrapnel rather than create a truly effective penetrator. However, once the proper shape of the liner is determined, either by copying the shape of the liner in a professionally designed EFP device or by trial and testing, the liners can be fabricated somewhat easily using a form and a hydraulic press.
Because of its ability to focus the force of an explosive charge, a small EFP containing just a few kilograms of high explosive can cause far more damage to an armored vehicle than can a traditional IED made with much more high-explosive material. This means a militant bombmaker can make hundreds of EFP devices from the explosive filler required to make one large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). And since they are small, EFPs are easily concealed and harder to detect than larger devices. They can also be placed next to the road rather than having to be buried in the road like an anti-tank mine. However, to function effectively and to project the penetrator into the optimal area of a vehicle, an EFP device does need to be positioned properly to allow for the appropriate standoff distance and aimed at the appropriate height for the targeted vehicle. It also needs to be deployed in a manner that allows for precise timing, whether the device is command-detonated or victim-actuated.
EFPs used in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have proved to be highly effective against armored vehicles -- even main battle tanks. And they are downright deadly against lighter vehicles like armored personnel carriers, transport trucks, jeeps and Humvees -- or the armored bus shown in the Syria video.

Indicators of Foreign Support

Much can be discerned from a careful examination of the IEDs a militant organization employs in its attacks. For example, in the 1970s the rapid increase of bombmaking skill in Palestinian and other Marxist-oriented militant groups clearly displayed that those groups had received training from professional bombmakers dispatched by state sponsors. Indeed, decades before al Qaeda opened training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, training camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Libya and Iraq were filled with militants from all over the world, and particular bombmaking techniques that appeared in distinct areas could be traced back to individual bombmakers who attended training courses together at those locations. Later, the emergence of signature IEDs in places such as El Salvador and Colombia demonstrated that bombmakers from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and Basque militant group ETA had been passing along their training to a new generation of militants in those countries -- a fact later backed up by the arrests of some of the bombmakers.
In many of the early jihadist attacks against U.S. interests in places such as Yemen, specific techniques utilized by some bombmakers made it obvious to investigators that they had received training at camps in Pakistan and brought their training home with them after fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, after receiving training from Hezbollah, al Qaeda began to display hallmarks of Hezbollah's influence in its IED designs. 
The use of signature explosives, like Semtex H, by groups such as the PIRA and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command also demonstrated a distinct logistical link between state sponsors of terrorism like Libya and their militant proxies. Indeed, under the Gadhafi regime, the Libyans were even known to use the diplomatic pouch to smuggle Semtex to their embassies in places like London, where the explosives were then provided to militant proxies for use in attacks. 
In more recent years, there were rapid advances in the IEDs employed by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. When the group's IEDs progressed from small, crude devices to large suicide VBIEDs in the span of six months, it clearly indicated that the group's bombmakers had received external training.
In another recent case, underpowered suicide VBIEDs employed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have demonstrated that the group's commanders in northern Algeria have a desire to attack and an abundance of suicide operatives, but are having difficulty amassing enough explosive material to create effective VBIEDs. This information allows analysts to gauge the type of threat such a group poses.
Which brings us back to EFPs. In Iraq, EFPs were most widely used by Shiite militants, who received copper liners for their improvised EFP devices from Iran's Quds Force. Indeed, the emergence of EFPs in Iraq was a strong indicator of Iran's support for the Shiite militias in Iraq. 
Though Syria shares a border with Iraq, one cannot simply assume that EFP technology has spilled across the border. Certainly, the principle behind EFPs is simple enough, but the EFPs in Iraq were largely used by Shiite militants, who are aligned with Iran and, by extension, the Syrian regime. The Quds Force is unlikely to have provided copper liners for improvised EFPs to the Sunni militants in Syria or to have permitted its Iraqi proxies to transfer them. (However, it is entirely possible that an entrepreneurial-minded Shi'i who had some of the liners could have sold them to a Sunni militant, who then furnished them to Syrian militants.)
It will be important to monitor how many EFPs Syrian militants deploy. If they deploy only a few EFP devices in scattered locations, they may be obtaining liners on an ad hoc basis. However, if EFPs are deployed in a broad, systematic fashion, it will be an indication -- though certainly not conclusive evidence -- that the Syrian militants are receiving supplies from an external source. The precision and effectiveness with which any such devices are employed will also be telling of the training the militants employing them have received. A domestically developed EFP capability will have some failures and inconsistencies -- the sorts of problems frequently evidenced as a bombmaker advances along the bombmaking learning curve. Such growing pains will be absent if the Syrian militants are aided by outside training and logistics.
There are many ways that one can judge the degree of foreign support that a militant group is receiving. The indicators can include anything from uniforms and assault rifles to the presence of increasing numbers of anti-tank guided missiles and man-portable air defense systems. But more subtle indications, such as those involving IED components and bombmaking skills, should not be overlooked.

Read more: Are Syria's Rebels Getting Foreign Support? | Stratfor 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Some Amazing Things Happen When A Jet Breaks The Sound Barrier

For an airplane to break the sound barrier, it must hit speeds of about 770 mph — when it does that a couple of things happen.
All the air in front of the craft gets pushed together, can't get out of its own way — and when that magic number gets hit — the air finally breaks out of its own way and crashes behind the plane causing a sonic boom.
The boom is literally an explosion of sound waves that travel with the plane as long as it's flying at that speed.
But the moment that first barrage of air pounds back over the airplane it sometimes condenses or sweeps up vapor from the jets engine, moisture in the air, and even sea water — resulting in some pictures like these.
Supersonic plane

This F/A-18F Super Hornet flew over visitors aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and stunned everyone with a supersonic demo

While this could make a great Valentine's Day card
Like a portal into another dimension
Another odd shape of vapor as this F-22 Raptor cuts through the sky and slips past the speed of sound

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fourth T-50 Stealth Fighter to Fly This Year

Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter
Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter

KORENOVSK, June 14 (RIA Novosti)
Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is to introduce a fourth Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter into its test and development program this year, the company's President Mikhail Pogosyan said on Thursday.
"We are now testing three aircraft. A fourth will be brought in this year," he said.
Pogosyan had said earlier this year that the firm would introduce a fourth aircraft into the test program but did not disclose when.
The first production standard T-50 is due to enter service with the Russian Air Force by 2015, and the first evaluation example by 2013. The service plans to acquire 60 of the fifth-generation fighters.
The T-50, also known as project PAK-FA, first flew on January 29, 2011 and was first publicly revealed at the Moscow Air Show in August that year. India will also acquire an advanced fighter aircraft based on the T-50.

Friday, June 15, 2012

U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman Complete X-47B Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base

The second X-47B UAS lifts off during the air worthiness test phase at Edwards AFB. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Move Second Unmanned Aircraft to East Coast
SAN DIEGO | The first major phase of flight testing the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft came to a successful conclusion on May 15 when Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy wrapped up testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The airworthiness test phase, which comprised 23 flights by two air vehicles, proved that the X-47B will perform properly at all speeds, weights and altitudes associated with the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The flights included tests of several aircraft maneuvers required in the carrier environment, helping to reduce risks associated with operating a tailless, unmanned aircraft from a Navy aircraft carrier. 

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the UCAS-D program. 

"The X-47B flight test program at Edwards will be remembered as a very successful collaboration among the Navy, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS Enterprise program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "The team has done outstanding work testing and preparing the aircraft for the next phase of the program, which will take place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md." 

Earlier this morning, he added, the team completed the cross-country move of the second of two X-47Bs built by Northrop Grumman from Edwards to Patuxent River. Carrier suitability testing of the aircraft will begin later this summer. 

"The X-47B flight test program at Edwards demonstrated convincingly the maturity, durability and performance of this revolutionary new unmanned system," said Johnson. "Through innovation, hard work and an enduring partnership with our customer, we laid the foundation for the upcoming carrier integration sea trials." 

While at Edwards, the X-47B aircraft reached altitudes exceeding 15,000 feet and demonstrated multiple maneuvers relevant to carrier operations, including extending and retracting a tail hook, completing an autonomous "touch-and-go" landing – an aviation first – and performing landings at a high sink rate and in a heavy weight configuration. 

The Northrop Grumman team is currently finalizing the software that will be required to enter carrier suitability testing of the X-47B. That testing will include catapult launches, arrested landings and wireless remote deck handling of the aircraft. 

The first X-47B was moved to Patuxent River in December 2011. It is currently undergoing electromagnetic interference testing, which is designed to demonstrate that the X-47B is compatible with the electromagnetic signal environment of an aircraft carrier.

In 2013, the UCAS-D program plans to demonstrate the ability of the tailless, autonomous, low-observable relevant X-47B demonstrator to operate safely from a Navy aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery, bolter and wave-off performance. Demonstration of autonomous aerial refueling by the X-47B is planned for 2014. The program will also mature and demonstrate technologies required for future carrier- capable unmanned air system programs.

A new X-47B video is also available at 

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DiSTI’s Technology Enables F-35 Training at Eglin Air Force Base

U.S. DoD's first F-35 Lightning II arrives at Eglin AFB. (Photo: U.S. Air Force, Samuel King Jr)

DiSTI’s Virtual Maintenance Technology Enables Effective Training Before F?35 Aircraft are Fielded

Orlando, FL | The DiSTI Corporation, a leading developer of interactive 3D software and customized training solutions, enabled early training for the Academic Training Center (ATC) at Eglin Air Force Base through advanced virtual maintenance training technology. DiSTI was selected by AAI Services Corporation for development of the F-35 Lightning II Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainer (ASMT), as one part of the F-35 training system that was developed by Lockheed Martin. The ASMT gives the ATC an innovative training method and increases student throughput prior to the aircraft being fielded. 

The ASMT provides training for student maintainers with curriculum covering ground operation, maintenance, and testing procedures. Through its latest software tools and processes, DiSTI streamlined the conversion of Computer Aided Design (CAD) data provided by Lockheed Martin to produce a high fidelity and interactive virtual maintenance environment for the ASMT. By creating a life?like virtual representation of the actual F-35 jet and its components, DiSTI worked with AAI to produce a training application that immerses students in a compelling 3D virtual environment. 

“The desktop trainers such as the Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainer, requires each student to follow the procedures of checking out virtual tools, reading the maintenance checklist, and individually performing each task,” said Brian Vohl, Lockheed Martin’s Weapons Instructor. 

The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin has eight basic familiarization courses in session where the students have access to the computer simulators. Student maintainers now have a way to become familiarized with the F-35 by working on a virtual aircraft before the actual aircraft is delivered. This comprehensive training solution aided the Air Force students at Eglin to gain their first certificate of completion in the F-35 courses for structures, avionics, weapons and crew chief career fields. 

“This is hugely significant for all services because we are getting our maintainers prepped for when we are fully stood?up for F-35 training in the near future,” said Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd FW Commander. “The classes are another exciting step forward in the 2012 execution year for F-35 training.” 

“DiSTI’s renowned virtual maintenance training technology has been implemented in numerous high profile programs for the U.S. and foreign militaries, solidifying our position as a leader in the field. The ASMT is no exception. It produces highly realistic virtual training, reduces development time and costs, and gives the students a way to become familiar with the aircraft before they lay their hands on one for the first time,” said DiSTI President, Joe Swinski. 

Since its delivery to the ATC at Eglin Air Force base, the ASMT has become an integral part of the training curriculum. In March, approximately 100 maintenance students from three branches of service began the inaugural classes for the F-35 basic familiarization courses at Eglin AFB. 

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sagem Wins Major Contract from MBDA for Mica Missile Infrared Seekers

Paris, Eurosatory exhibition | Sagem (Safran group) today signed a contract with MBDA to supply nearly 200 infrared seekers for Mica air-to-air missiles. 

Developed and produced by Sagem, the Mica IR seeker is a key to the missile’s operational effectiveness. Furthermore, the seeker also functions as a sensor providing tactical information to the flight crew, because of its high sensitivity, powerful imaging algorithms, bispectral imagery, automatic acquisition of all targets, ability to lock-on before or after firing, discrimination between targets and countermeasures. 

Sagem produces Mica IR seekers in its Poitiers plant in France. The infrared system uses an array developed and produced by Sofradir, a jointly-owned company of Sagem and Thales. 

Sagem has already produced more than 1,000 Mica IR seekers to date for the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters deployed by the French air force and navy, and for foreign air forces, including Morocco’s modernized Mirage F1s. This latest contract consolidates the longstanding partnership between missile manufacturer MBDA and Sagem for infrared guided missiles. Sagem has already produced more than 30,000 seekers for the company’s Magic, Mistral and VL Mica (Vertical Launch) missiles. 

Over the years Sagem has developed unrivaled expertise in all key enabling technologies for seekers: infrared detection units, semi-active laser channels, image processing, decoy discrimination, real-time processing, cooling systems, infrared optics, IR domes, line-of-sight stabilization and inertial reference units. 

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BAE Systems Displays Latest Mine Protected Vehicle at Eurosatory

(Photo: BAE Systems)

PARIS | BAE Systems is displaying the company’s latest in mine protected vehicles, the RG35 family of vehicles, at the Eurosatory exhibition this week. This family of vehicles meets today’s battlefield requirements by being adaptable for future technologies and fulfilling a variety of roles. 

“The new RG35 vehicle is a direct response to lessons learned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – soldiers need an effective level of protection without sacrificing mobility, payload and firepower,” said Chris Chambers, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems Tactical Wheeled Vehicles. “We’ve responded to the needs of soldiers and are now able to tailor the vehicle’s capability to specific requirements because of the design’s adaptability.” 

The vehicle is available in 4x4 and 6x6 configurations. The RG35 4x4 is a mine protected, multi-mission tactical wheeled vehicle that can easily be modified in a number of ways to transport cargo, conduct routine patrols or be outfitted for surveillance missions. The 6x6 version combines tactical mobility with a high level of survivability and high capacity volume under armour, offering a new class cross-over combat vehicle. 

“The RG35 family of vehicles is a modern and dependable tactical wheeled vehicle family truly built for multiple mission types. No matter where or what the mission, getting troops home safely is what drives us when developing our vehicles,” said Johan Steyn, managing director of BAE Systems’ Land Systems South Africa. “We’ve integrated four decades of expertise and experience into this family of vehicles.” 

The RG35 can be equipped with light and medium turrets, or with indirect fire weapons. The RG35 4x4 variant, on display at Eurosatory, will feature the light-weight Self Defence Remotely Operated Weapon (SD-ROW), which enables forces to engage hostile targets without exposing operators to harm during day and night. 

See the RG35 4x4 and the SD-ROW for the first time on BAE Systems stand, number J100 Hall 6, at the Eurosatory exhibition 11-15 June 2012.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Photo: Raptor over Nevada

An F-22 Raptor flies in a training mission during Red Flag 12-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range on March 13, 2012. The exercise allows Airmen to experience intensive air combat operations in the safety of a training environment. The F-22 pictured here belongs to the 1st Fighter Wing out of Langley Air Force Base, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

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Long Reach: Finland’s GPS-Guided Rocket Launchers

ATACMS firing

Finland is busy modernizing its forces within its limited budgets, fromair defense upgrades to new stealthy cruise missiles and upgrades for its F/A-18 Hornet fighters. In June 2012, the Finns convinced the US State Department to issue its formal request to buy long-range ATACMS missiles, which are able to work with Finland’s newly-upgraded M270 tracked MLRS rocket launchers.
American 227mm MLRS systems offer shorter reach than Russia’s 300mm SMERCH-M rocket launchers, for now. By replacing a box of 6 MLRS rockets with a single Army TACMS missile, however, the equation changes dramatically…


TACMS vs. MLRS pod

Fired from a modified M270 MLRS launcher (2 missile capacity), the MIM-140/ M-39Army Tactical Missile System(ATACMS) is designed for deep attack of enemy second-echelon forces, at ranges beyond other cannons and rockets. Each ATACMS missile box replaces a similar-sized box of 6 guided or unguided 227mm rockets, with ranges from 40-70 km depending on the version used.
In contrast, the extended range Army TACMS Block IA operates at range up to 300 km day or night, and in all weather conditions. The Block IA missile uses an inertial system plus GPS to guide it accurately over the target area, delivering its 500-pound unitary warhead to hit the target in a final dive. That angled descent feature is specially well suited to urban targeting, a capability that proved itself out in battles like Tal Afar during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Finland’s case, ATACMS’ 300 km range gives it a tremendous radius of fire support for Finnish forces, which makes it very difficult for the Russians to find and suppress the launch vehicles. That fits well with Finland’s total defense strategy. It’s also worth noting that ATACMS’ range would allow it to be fired from Helsinki, and hit targets in St. Petersburg.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tensions and Operational Challenges in Pakistan

By Scott Stewart
On June 4, four U.S. diplomats assigned to the Consulate General of the United States in Peshawar, Pakistan, were stopped at a military checkpoint and temporarily detained after refusing to allow their two vehicles to be searched. The diplomats -- including a vice consul -- were traveling in a two-vehicle motorcade and were accompanied by three Pakistani Foreign Service National (FSN) security officers. 
According to media reports, the Pakistani military has charged that the diplomats had traveled to Malakand without first obtaining permission from the Pakistani government. Malakand is a city located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province. Because of the problems Pakistan has had with foreign jihadists in its border badlands, all foreigners are required to obtain something called a No Objection Certificate from Pakistan's Interior Ministry before visiting areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Furthermore, the Pakistani press noted that the Pakistani military also objected to the Americans and their Pakistani FSNs' being armed and operating vehicles with fake license plates to disguise the diplomatic vehicles.
At its core, though, this incident is not about these small infractions. Indeed, Peshawar is the capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and diplomats stationed there already have received host country permission to be in the province. Additionally, U.S. diplomats assigned to Peshawar rarely venture outside of their secure compounds without a protective detail because of the extreme security threat in the city. Rather, this incident is a product of the strain in U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Motorcade Operations

The threat against U.S. diplomats in Peshawar is quite acute. In August 2008, American Consul General in Peshawar Lynne Tracy survived a small-arms attack against her motorcade. In November 2008, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Peshawar, Stephen Vance, was assassinated in an attack on his vehicle. In June 2009, Peshawar's Pearl Continental Hotel, which housed many foreign diplomats and U.N. personnel, was attacked with a massive vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), and in April 2010 the American Consulate building was the target of an elaborate VBIED plot. In May 2011, a U.S. diplomatic motorcade was attacked in Peshawar using a remotely detonated VBIED that was activated as the motorcade drove past. Jihadists also have attacked numerous Pakistani targets inside the city, including military, police and other government officials. 
Given the threat in Peshawar, it makes sense that the vice consul would travel in an armed motorcade to attend a meeting -- especially in Malakand, which is even more remote than Peshawar and even more dangerous for a U.S. government employee. The use of fake vehicle tags is also logical. There are places where it is beneficial to announce one's diplomatic status, but in Peshawar, diplomatic vehicles and premises are targeted specifically for attacks. It is also an environment in which the militants possess the weaponry to engage a fully armored vehicle, so it is much better to attempt to be low key than to maintain a high-profile protective detail. American and other diplomats frequently do this in Pakistan, so it was somewhat disingenuous of the Pakistani military to raise it as a point of contention in this case.
From the configuration of the motorcade as shown on Pakistani television, it appears that it was intended to safeguard the vice consul, who was presumably riding in the rear seat of the first vehicle with a U.S. driver and the agent in charge of his protective detail riding in the vehicle's front passenger seat. The security follow-car appears to have been staffed by a U.S. shift leader riding in the front passenger seat and a Pakistani FSN driver and two FSN security officers in the rear of the vehicle.
It is not clear if the three U.S. security officers are full-time government employees or contractors. They reportedly were carrying U.S. diplomatic passports at the time of the incident, but not everyone who holds a diplomatic passport is afforded full diplomatic immunity. Still, it is likely they were at the very least members of the administrative and technical staff and that they would be afforded functional diplomatic immunity for activities related to their official duties.
This case is quite unlike the January 2011 Raymond Davis case, in which a contract security officer assigned to the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore shot and killed two men who he claims attempted to rob him. In the June 4 incident, the security officers were with the diplomat they were protecting and clearly were performing their assigned duties. This means they would be immune from prosecution for any violations the Pakistanis can cite in this incident. However, the FSN security officers could find themselves in a much worse position if the Pakistani government decides to pursue charges against them.

U.S.-Pakistani Tensions

While the June 4 incident is unlike the Davis case, it certainly is related to the growing tension between the United States and Pakistan exacerbated by the Davis shootings. The countries' relationship deteriorated further after the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan. Relations between the two countries reached an all-time low in November 2011 after U.S. airstrikes against a Pakistani military post along the country's northwestern border with Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. In response, the Pakistani government shut down NATO's supply route into Afghanistan, asked U.S. forces to vacate an air base used to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and suspended military and intelligence cooperation.
After the November 2011 airstrike, the United States noticeably scaled back its UAV strikes in Pakistan. From Jan. 1 to May 21, the United States conducted just 13 UAV strikes while it sought to persuade the Pakistanis to reopen the NATO supply lines. However, since the conclusion of the NATO summit May 21, there have been eight U.S. airstrikes, including three strikes on June 2-4. The June 4 strike reportedly resulted in the death of al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi.
Considering this dynamic, it was no coincidence that the U.S. diplomatic motorcade was stopped the evening of June 4. The incident was meant to send a message to the Americans -- and perhaps even more important, a message to the Pakistani public, which has been full of anti-American sentiment since well before the Davis case. In fact, the Pakistani government has used anti-American sentiment as a tool for many years now, spanning several military administrations and now a civilian administration. The presence of a television crew at the scene also raises the possibility that the Pakistani military staged the entire incident.
The video shot by the television crew revealed another interesting point aside from the continuing tensions between the Americans and Pakistanis. Based on the footage, it is apparent that even though it has been two-and-a-half years since the suicide bombing against the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, and a year and a half since the Davis case, Washington continues to send Caucasian-looking men to work in this very hostile region rather than recruiting officers who could blend in on the street. The presence of Caucasians in a city like Malakand would draw even more attention than diplomatic vehicle plates.
Following 9/11, there was a rapid increase in the number of case officers assigned to collect information pertaining to al Qaeda and bin Laden, and the CIA was assigned to be the lead agency in the hunt. According to government sources, one big problem with this was that most of the case officers hired were young, inexperienced and ill suited to the mission. The CIA was simply unable to recruit case officers who understood the region's culture, issues and actors and who could move imperceptibly within the local milieu. Instead, the case officers are obviously foreigners. Along with the threat level in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, this ensures that these officers, like other U.S. government employees in the region, receive protection when they leave secure compounds.
Not only does the United States lack officers who can blend in within the region, but also the Americans' operational security is typically worse than al Qaeda's. The areas where the remaining al Qaeda leadership is hiding are remote and insular. Visitors to the area are quickly recognized and identified -- especially if they happen to be Caucasian. Local residents who spend too much time talking to such outsiders often are labeled as spies and killed. These conditions have helped the jihadists maintain a superior human intelligence (and counterintelligence) network in the area.
The June 4 incident highlights the persistence of these organizational problems as they continue hampering U.S. efforts to collect intelligence in Pakistan.

Read more: Tensions and Operational Challenges in Pakistan | Stratfor