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SIGNAL Online Exclusives

NATO Testing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Capabilities

May 16, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Representatives from the U.S. Army and Air Force, along with 17 NATO nations and three partner nations, will participate in a joint reconnaissance trial in Norway this month to test and evaluate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance concepts and technologies.

Scientists' Experiment Regrows Muscle in Wounded Legs

May 16, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine might have discovered a way to get bodies to regrow muscle following traumatic injuries.

Navy Scientists Create Harder Ceramic for Armor Windows

May 15, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Scientists with the U.S. Naval Research Lab are the first to succeed at creating a ceramic window for all types of military vehicles that is not only 50 percent harder than current materials, but lighter, more crack resistant and likely to be a cost-saving endeavor, researchers say.

Halvorsen Named Acting Defense Department CIO

May 14, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Terry Halvorsen, currently the U.S. Navy’s chief information officer (CIO), will take over as the Defense Department’s acting CIO on May 21, a position vacated somewhat abruptly by Teri Takai when she announced at the end of April that she would be leaving the post by May 2.

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.

 

FirstNet On Track In Daunting Task to Erect First-Ever Nationwide EMS Network

May 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Now that the First Responder Network Authority officially launched its state-by-state consultation endeavor toward building the first-ever nationwide EMS network, leaders face a “key point in the development of the venture. FirstNet, the independent authority tasked by Congress with creating a wireless broadband network for public safety, wants to give 3 to 5 million first responders not only priority on the spectrum, but equip them with smartphones to empower them to better do their jobs.

Boston Marathon Bombing Lessons Learned

April 30, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Intelligence agencies could have investigated more thoroughly and shared information more effectively, but even if they had performed perfectly, they may not have been able to prevent last year's Boston Marathon bombing, according to a report delivered before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Self-Healing Paint Might Keep Tactical Vehicles on the Road Longer

April 29, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

A new primer additive developed for military tactical vehicles lets paint “heal itself” and could revolutionize maintenance timelines while saving billions of dollars, defense experts say.

Polyfibroblast, developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in partnership with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), can be added to zinc-enriched paint primers used on tactical vehicles, which then can “heal like human skin,” says Capt. Frank Furman, USMC, who manages the logistics research programs for ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department.

“Corrosion costs the Department of the Navy billions of dollars each year,” Capt. Furman says. “This technology could cut maintenance costs, and, more importantly, it could increase the time vehicles are out in the field with our Marines.”

The powder is made up of microscopic polymer spheres filled with an oily liquid. When the vehicle’s paint is scratched or marred, resin from the broken capsules form a waxy, water-repellant coating across exposed steel to protect against corrosion, he says. Corrosion costs the Navy an estimated $7 billion a year, roughly half of that from damaged Marine Corps vehicles.

The primer additive recently was tested on tactical ground vehicles at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. “It hasn’t been implemented on a wide scale, but we think we are at the point to do that,” Capt. Furman says.

PPG Industries, a coatings and specialty products company headquartered in Pennsylvania, has the contract to add the product to the zinc-rich primers for bulk distribution.

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