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News Briefs

New Satellite Support for Unmanned Vehicles

April 16, 2009

Commercial satellite support for U.S. military forces in the Middle East and Asia is being boosted by an Intelsat orbiter that is being moved halfway around the world to cover the region. The international satellite consortium, responding to a U.S. Defense Department request in February, is repositioning its Galaxy 26 U.S. domestic satellite from its 93°W slot over the Western Hemisphere to a new location over the Indian Ocean. The Galaxy 26 orbiter will provide vital bandwidth for unmanned aerial vehicles conducting surveillance operations throughout its area of coverage, which ranges from Germany to Southeast Asia. The Defense Department awarded a contract to Intelsat via Artel Incorporated as part of its Defense Information Systems Network Satellite Transmission Services-Global (DSTS-G) contract.

Army Fields Advanced Night Vision

April 15, 2009

The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Soldier delivered 300 sets of the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggles (ENVG) to the 10th Mountain Division, the first unit other than special forces to receive them. The ENVG incorporates image intensification and long-wave infrared sensors into a single integrated system. It has a thermal camera that increases mobility and situational awareness regardless of light, weather or battlefield conditions, and it offers faster threat recognition. The ENVG's compatibility with current aiming lasers enables a fully integrated system of thermal, laser and image intensification. A digital update for the ENVG is in development. With that, soldiers will be able to import and export digital files.

Data Fusion for Attack Helicopters

April 6, 2009

U.S. Army attack helicopters operating in Southwest Asia now can receive video and data from unmanned aerial platforms, enhancing situational awareness and reducing sensor-to-shooter times. The Video from Unmanned Aerial Systems for Interoperability Teaming-Level 2 (VUITTM-2) capability provides the crews of AH-64 Apache attack helicopters with real-time streaming video and metadata shown on multipurpose displays. The VUITTM-2 can transmit both Apache and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) video via a mini-tactical common datalink to troops equipped with One System Remote Video Terminals. Army officials explain that the capability enables Apache aircrews to stream imagery to ground units such as Stryker vehicles on combat patrols. The real-time video provides immediate intelligence so that commanders can plan safer alternate routes. The live UAS data also allows Apache crews to locate and engage time-critical targets quickly. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation, the VUITTM-2 was designed and fielded in less than seven months as part of a rapid fielding request from the U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff.

Army Modifies Radar Systems

April 5, 2009

The U.S. Army is enhancing its mobile ground-based radars designed to detect incoming enemy artillery rounds. The AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder weapon-locating radar is a long-range system that is being deployed across the service to locate the sources of enemy mortar, artillery and rocket fire, and to relay that data for counterfire by friendly units. As part of the Army's Reliability Maintainability Improvement (RMI) program, the entire inventory of AN/TPQ-37 and AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder systems will be modified with a modular, air-cooled transmitter and new common radar processors. ThalesRaytheonSystems officials, the company that is contracted for the modifications, note that the upgrades will significantly reduce life-cycle costs, provide higher operational availability and extend the radar's expected operational life to the year 2030. The modifications are part of a $285 million production contract.

Navy Sends BAMS to Air Force

April 4, 2009

A U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is part of the joint mission of the U.S. Air Force 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The new role marks the first operational mission for the BAMS UAS-a maritime derivative of the RQ-4 Global Hawk-although the aircraft has been used in noncombat roles. BAMS' arrival in Southwest Asia is the culmination of more than five months of a joint effort to stand up a maritime surveillance presence in the region. The move came when Navy officials responded to a Defense Department request for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the area. Air Force personnel will control the system at the forward operating location, and Air Force instructors will train naval aviators. Experts from both military services have come together to create a process to ensure that differences in operational and maintenance rules and standards are identified and resolved quickly.

France Improves Identification Crypto

April 3, 2009

The French navy and air force are adding new encryption technology to their identification friend-or-foe (IFF) systems to reduce the chance of enemy interception and analysis. The new encryption is being applied to more than 1,000 IFF systems equipping the two services. The equipment will help ensure that links between aircraft transponders and ground-based interrogators are not read or corrupted by new interception technologies now appearing in the battlespace. The existing IFF systems receiving the encryption upgrades will be able to respond quickly and reliably in an electronic warfighting environment, company officials say. The French government has awarded a 30 million contract to EADS Defense and Security for the new IFF encryption suite.

Refining the Beam on Lasers

December 4, 2008
By H. Mosher

Single-frequency amplifiers are being developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) new Revolution in Fiber Lasers program. The program is designing building blocks to combine laser beams that can be scaled to a weapons-class power level while maintaining good beam quality.

Raven Takes Digital Flight

November 21, 2008
By H. Mosher

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 Engineering Center 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.

Coast Guard Simulates Command Center Tools

November 19, 2008
By H. Mosher

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 Development Center.

Agreement Streamlines Joint Acquisition Processes

October 31, 2008
By H. Mosher

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force have signed a memorandum of agreement that will leverage development, production, sustainment and upgrade efforts for the RQ-4-based programs under each of the services. The agreement enables the services to continue to pursue common objectives across the RQ-4 enterprise while retaining each service's specific mission and operational requirements. Military officials believe the agreement will promote cost savings and eliminate redundancies. The new memorandum will allow the Navy and Air Force to share data that will help ensure program effectiveness and help contractors increase quality and improve on-time delivery, they say.

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