News Briefs

June 17, 2009

The U.S. Air Force's venerable fleet of B-52 Stratofortress bombers is joining the network-centric force. They are being outfitted with the Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) system, which will provide the aircraft with enhanced situational awareness and mission flexibility. The CONECT modification involves the installation of a digital communications infrastructure into the B-52 that enables the aircraft to link to the Air Force's digital communications network and contact command and control centers, ground forces and other platforms.

April 24, 2009

The U.S. Air Force is redoubling its efforts to reach out to small businesses. David Van Buren, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, and Ronald Poussard, director of the service's small business programs, explain that this effort seeks to remove the "check-the-box" mentality often associated with small business outreach. Innovation, agility, responsiveness and efficiency are some of the attributes small companies offer, but Van Buren also says, "We don't have enough competition now.

April 27, 2009

Ion Tiger, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research program at the Naval Research Laboratory, is merging UAV technology and fuel cell systems that are more efficient and reduce noise. An Office of Naval Research-sponsored program, the Ion Tiger UAV tests a hydrogen-powered fuel cell design that has more endurance in flight distance and payload weight than battery-powered designs. The UAV also features a low heat signature and no emissions.

April 18, 2009

U.S. Air Force officials named Barksdale Air Force Base as the preferred alternative for the location of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) headquarters. The AFGSC is a new major command focused on the nuclear and global strike mission. A final decision about the permanent headquarters location is expected this summer and will be made after the environmental impact analysis process required by law is complete.

April 21, 2009

The Boeing Company and the Australian government demonstrated the ability to simultaneously command and control three robot aircraft from an airborne command platform. The demonstration featured three ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) controlled from a Royal Australian Air Force Wedgetail 737 airborne early warning and control aircraft. Operating 120 miles from the Wedgetail, the ScanEagles were assigned tasks such as area search, reconnaissance, point surveillance and targeting. The aircraft demonstrated extended sensing; persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and the transmission of real-time video imagery of ground targets.

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.

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.

April 17, 2009

An innovative environment will support a virtual collaborative zone within the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. The FCS Advanced Collaborative Environment (FCS ACE) is a secure Web environment that enables government and industry participants to work together and access product, technical and program management information. A $4.3 million contract win allows Alion Science and Technology to help streamline and improve business processes and control investment costs for FCS ACE's entire life cycle.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Fiber lasers are 1.5 to 2 times more efficient than solid-state lasers. Today, single-frequency fiber lasers and amplifiers are limited to several hundred watts because of stimulated Brillouin scattering. The scattering reflects power backward and damages low-power components. A Northrop Grumman-led team, which received a $4.5 million contract to work on the project, plans to use proprietary methods to eliminate the scattering.

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.

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.

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.

October 30, 2008
By H. Mosher

The U.S. Army has begun its first large-scale deployment of a warfighter-wearable gunshot and sniper detection solution. The Army's Rapid Equipping Force will begin distributingSoldier-Wearable Acoustic Targeting Systems (SWATS) to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq later this year; the distribution is expected to be complete by early next year. Part of the Ears Gunshot Localization System family of products, SWATS includes next-generation sensors and is ruggedized so that it can be used in current operations.

October 31, 2008
By H. Mosher

The U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems' (FCS's) Active Protection System (APS) has successfully passed stationary and moving target tests. The APS is designed to protect the FCS family of future manned vehicles from a variety of anti-tank and artillery projectiles. The APS is a vehicle-mounted system that defeats incoming threats such as rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles by physically destroying or deflecting them in flight. The APS launches vertically and then maneuvers to defeat single or multiple projectiles coming in from any direction.

October 31, 2008
By H. Mosher

The Malicious Code Research Center, Finjan Incorporated, has discovered examples of obfuscated code embedded not only in hypertext markup language Web pages on legitimate Web sites but also in rich-content files. According to a recently released Finjan report, popularity is increasing for online advertisements as well as user-generated content on Web 2.0 Web sites in directing users to malware-infected content files. Code obfuscation remains the preferred cybercriminal technique for their attacks, the report states.

October 17, 2008
By H. Mosher

U.S. Army soldiers soon will be equipped with an enhanced night vision system that will increase their situational awareness in combat. Developed by BAE Systems through the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier Enhanced Night Vision Goggle advanced technology development program, the digitally fused enhanced night vision goggle, ENVG (D), allows soldiers to view imagery that exploits features from visible, low-light and infrared sensors. The prototype system features a monocular eyepiece that provides several modes of fusion for varied mission needs, such as visible-only imagery, infrared-only images, monochrome fusion or colorized fusion with a user-selectable color palette.