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Scientists Create Thermal-Imaging Lenses From Waste Sulfur

May 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

One man’s trash really can be another man’s treasure. Professors at the University of Arizona (UA) recently transformed sulfur waste from refining fossil fuels into moldable, infrared-capable plastic lenses—an incredibly inexpensive and lightweight component that can be used for night-vision goggles among other uses.

The discovery could have huge positive implications for the U.S. military, which has already expressed interest in the patent-pending polymer, Robert A. Norwood, professor of optical sciences at UA, says.

The polymer can be molded into any arbitrary shape needed, opening up a new range of options for military developers seeking alternatives to expensive and heavier night-vision goggles, Norwood says. Other military applications on a short list include thermal imaging, missile sites and spectroscopic threat detection, he adds.

These lenses could be used for any function or mission that involves heat detection and infrared light, from cameras to night-vision goggles or surveillance systems.

Norwood and his colleague Jeffrey Pyun, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UA who was first to start experimenting with sulfur-based polymers, placed the new polymer in a sort of window and snapped a photo of a man standing on the other side. “We could see the heat coming off the body,” Norwood says. “It was pretty exciting to see that.”

The professors discovered the sulfur-based lenses are transparent to mid-range infrared, between 3 to 8 microns. And the lenses have “high optical” or focusing power, which means they can be thin—and thus lightweight—to focus on nearby objects.

The UA scientists' next step involves drumming up industry and Defense Department talk and funding as they continue their research and work to improve the product. “We really would like to have now a focused program on further development of these materials,” Norwood says.

House Committee Passes $600 Billion in 2015 DOD Spending

May 8, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved in the early morning hours Thursday its version of the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill, authorizing nearly $601 billion overall.

The powerful committee’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) consists of $521.3 for spending on national defense, and an additional $79.4 billion placeholder for overseas contingency operations—a number that could fluctuate as war-funding requirements still have yet to be finalized.

Among many other programs and expenditures, of the total, the Defense Department sought $63.5 billion for overall research, development, test and evaluation costs, and $7.2 billion for space systems, including $1.4 billion for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, $1 billion for GPS satellites, $600 million for military communications satellites and $700 million for infrared detection satellites. Another $6.8 billion was sought for ballistic missile defense system. The committee approved in its legislation $52 billion for cybersecurity operations.

During deliberations, Congress asked the Defense Department to submit an unfunded priorities list, which outlines programs Pentagon officials would like to fund but which did not make the final budget cut. Those unfunded requests total $36 billion.

The United States spends roughly three times more on defense than its nearest competitor, and about as much as the next nine largest countries in the world combined, many of which are allies.

Military Satellites Send New Civilian GPS Signals

May 6, 2014
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Air Force is continuously broadcasting L2C and L5 civilian GPS signals. Though the changes make little immediate difference to the general population, the makers of GPS devices will use them to develop next-generation devices.

 

Beware the Bear

June 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

Seventy years ago, Gen. Patton learned the hard way what we are relearning today. Don't forget about the Russians. The bear is still out there. And he's hungry.

Ask the Expert: Next Steps for Intelligence After the Post-9/11 Era

June 1, 2014
By William M. Nolte

Q: What are the next steps for intelligence after the post-9/11 era?

A: The next steps should be a radical shift in how resources are allocated, not business
as usual on tighter budgets.

The “post-9/11” era is over. For years I’ve been telling students that a decade marked by the pre-eminence of terrorism as an issue, flush budgets and a volatile information environment has ended. Terrorism must now compete with cybersecurity, energy and other resource issues, regional conflicts and several other concerns in an extraordinary mix—or even a dangerous blending—of several issues. Now of course, we face a resurgent Russia, with all that implies for stability in both Europe and Asia.

As for flush budgets, those are a rapidly receding memory. This leaves, of the original characteristics of the post-9/11 era, only the volatile information environment, which shows no sign of slowing. If anything, its breadth as much as its pace continues to confound us as we deal with the full range of its implications—social, economic, political and legal. Every time I read an article suggesting that we have reached the limit to the amount of data we can put on a piece of silicon, I read another suggesting that silicon will be replaced by a virus or some other material ... or that quantum computing is finally about to arrive.

It Is Time to Stop the Daily Assaults on the Intelligence Community

June 1, 2014
By Kent R. Schneider

The world may be more dangerous today than in any period in history. Threats are widespread and diverse. It no longer is enough to watch nation-states. In this period of asymmetric warfare, with the addition of the cyberthreat, almost anyone can become a threat to national security. In this dangerous world, the value of intelligence has risen, and the tools and means of intelligence must be richer than in the past.

Enabling En Route Communications Aboard Large Transport Aircraft

May 1, 2014
By Lt. Col. Jan Norris, USA, 
and Whitney Katz

The ability to communicate en route directly with ground elements during an airborne theater insertion has taken a giant leap forward with a communications system boarding a C-17 Globemaster III. A long-distance deployment across the vast Asia-Pacific region has opened the door to en route command and control over secure or unsecure links.

Counterterrorism Partnerships Push Art of Possible

July 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The organization largely responsible for introducing robots on the battlefield now plans to field a miniaturized ground robot, a small unmanned aircraft, a Special Forces robotic exoskeleton and a host of other advanced technologies in an effort to combat terrorism around the world.

Intelligence Generates a Cyber Picture

June 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The borderless world of cybersecurity now is benefitting from geospatial intelligence products. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has joined the fight against cybermarauders by providing imagery to help cyberwarriors track down online adversaries. Experts defending the United States from cyber attack abroad have a new tool in their kit by being able to see the facility from which digital malefactors are plying their wares.

Military Evaluates Future Cyberforce

June 1, 2014
By Rita Boland

Cybersecurity remains a priority for the U.S. Defense Department, with officials protecting resources for it in the face of overall budget constraints. Guidance from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 directs a mission analysis of cybercapabilities not only in the active military, but also across partners, to help forces maintain their edge in protecting the nation.

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