News Briefs

November 17, 2008

Littoral Combat Ship Era Begins
The U.S. Navy has commissioned the first littoral combat ship (LCS). The 378-foot USS Freedom features interchangeable mission packages so that it can be reconfigured for antisubmarine, mine and surface warfare on an as-needed basis. It is filled with advanced networking capabilities that enable it to share tactical information with other Navy aircraft, ships and submarines as well as with joint units. USS Freedom can operate in water that is less than 20 feet deep and can travel at speeds exceeding 40 knots. In addition to tactical and communications tasks, the new LCS will serve as the platform for launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles.

Tactical Network Enters Service
The U.S. Army has taken delivery of equipment of the first increment of the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T). This phase of the program builds on the former Joint Network Node network and offers high-capacity secure communications when warfighters are not in transit. Devices include network hubs, management suites and nodes. The 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team is training with the equipment to prepare for operational tests and evaluations. The second increment of the program will include an initial on-the-move broadband networking capability using satellite and radio links. Fielding of phase-two equipment is scheduled to occur next year.

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program Crashes
The U.S. Army has halted the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program because development costs have almost tripled to $942 million from $359 million. In addition, deliveries were scheduled to begin in 2009 but had been pushed back to 2013. Army officials say they need helicopters now and will re-evaluate the requirements for a reconnaissance helicopter. In the meantime, the service branch will put more effort into the existing Kiowa Warrior fleet. The Army will implement a safety enhancement program to standardize that fleet and improve its effectiveness in combat. The upgrades include improved sensors, weapons systems and survivability equipment.

Air Force Reorganizes to Deter Nuclear Threats
The U.S. Air Force has created a new Air Staff directorate—aligned as A10—to strengthen the focus on nuclear enterprise. The Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office began operations on November 1. The directorate is the second organizational change officials have implemented to improve nuclear focus. The first involved consolidating nuclear sustainment responsibility in the Air Force Materiel Command at the Nuclear Weapons Center. The Air Force also announced plans for a nuclear-only major command called Air Force Global Strike Command as its future field-operating construct for the nuclear enterprise.

Submerged Submarine Communications Link Established
The U.S. Navy has successfully conducted the first large-scale test of a technology that enables commanders to communicate with a submerged submarine, regardless of its speed and depth. In the final evaluations of the Deep Siren tactical paging system, which were held in June and August, a Navy submarine deployed special communications buoys that reached the surface to establish a communications link between the vessel and the test team in Norfolk, Virginia. The Deep Siren buoys can receive and transmit satellite communications, converting them to acoustic signals.

Coast Guard Simulates CommandCenter Tools
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard First District command center participated in an experiment simulating a scenario that examined decisions and actions to locate a vessel of interest and prevent a potential terrorist incursion. The Coast Guard worked with Raytheon Company on the experiment and used the company’s Mission Profiling process to study the potential for theoretical decision support tools and concepts of operations to improve a Coast Guard district command center’s maritime security mission. Several tools and concepts demonstrated potential for further investigation. The exercise was the first joint experiment under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement signed by Raytheon and the Coast Guard Research and DevelopmentCenter.

Raven Takes Digital Flight
The Raven unmanned aerial system (UAS) will be upgraded with a new digital datalink that will quadruple the number of available video channels and improve video quality, relay capability and encryption. The Natick Soldier Research, Development and EngineeringCenter developed the datalink, which has been transitioned to the production line. Until this time, the Raven has used an analog downlink to share video and telemetry information. However, video data that cannot be compressed prior to transmission consumes large amounts of bandwidth, and when the signal weakens, the full-motion video feed degrades. Switching to digital addresses these issues.

Targeting Pods Selected
The U.S. Air Force is acquiring more targeting pods for its combat aircraft. The additional Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) can create video links to forces using ground terminals. The new ATPs will be upgraded to include a two-way datalink system to shorten targeting, close air support and damage assessment times. Another improvement is a low-light-level, high-definition television, enhanced forward-looking infrared and algorithm updates.

More Robots Join Army
The U.S. Army is increasing the number of battlefield manportable robots. The service is acquiring up to 26 more Packbot 510 robots to perform reconnaissance, investigate suspicious objects, identify roadside bombs and uncover unexploded ordnance. This purchase, totaling $3.5 million, is the seventh order under a $286 million contract with the iRobot Corporation to equip Army units with robots.


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