The X-51A Waverider prepares for the longest the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever.
The fourth and final flight of the BoeingX-51AWaverider test program has accomplished a breakthrough in the development of flight reaching Mach 5.1 over the Pacific Ocean May 1. The WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle traveled more than 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, Calif.
It was the longest air-breathing, scramjet-powered hypersonic flight in history, flying for three and a half minutes on scramjet power at a top speed of Mach 5.1. The vehicle flew for a total time of more than six minutes. Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate described the test as “full mission success”. It was the last of four test vehicles originally conceived when the $300 million technology demonstration program began in 2004. The program objective was to prove the viability of air-breathing, high-speed scramjet propulsion.
The X-51A Waverider prepares to launch its historic fourth and final flight. The cruiser achieved Mach 5.1 traveling 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes, making this test the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)
“This demonstration of a practical hypersonic scramjet engine is a historic achievement that has been years in the making,” said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. “This test proves the technology has matured to the point that it opens the door to practical applications, such as advanced defense systems and more cost-effective access to space.”
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress from Edwards Air Force Base released the X-51A from 50,000 feet above the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range at 10:55 a.m. Pacific time. After the B-52 released the X-51A, a solid rocket booster accelerated the vehicle for about 26 seconds to Mach 4.8 before the booster and a connecting interstage were jettisoned. After separating from the booster, the cruiser’s supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine then lit and accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet. After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed. At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment. The X-51A made a controlled dive into the Pacific Ocean at the conclusion of its mission.
The X-51A is unique primarily due to its use of JP-7 hydrocarbon jet fuel in its scramjet engine. Other vehicles have achieved hypersonic, generally defined as speeds above Mach 5, flight with the use of hydrogen fuel. Without any moving parts, hydrocarbon fuel is injected into the scramjet’s combustion chamber where it mixes with the air rushing through the chamber and is ignited in a process likened to lighting a match in a hurricane.
“I believe all we have learned from the X-51A Waverider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight,” Brink said. As a technology demonstration program, there is no immediate successor to the X-51A program. However, the Air Force will continue hypersonic research and the successes of the X-51A will pay dividends to the High Speed Strike Weapon program currently in its early formation phase with AFRL.
Aviation Week Guy Noris added: “The success of the flight, which included 240-seconds of powered flight in scramjet mode – the longest ever achieved by an air-breather, is particularly important to the Air Force as it seeks to develop a hypersonic capability. Interest in high-speed, long range strike weapons which can fly at hypersonic speeds grew in the 2000s with the requirement to prosecute fleeting targets in counter-terrorism operations, and is assuming fresh importance with the strategic ‘pivot’ to Asia.”
Noris added this last flight incorporated improvements and lessons learned from the three former flights. These included better sealing between interfaces in the engine flow-path, hardware and software changes and redesign of the control fins.
The X-51A program is a collaborative effort of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with industry partners Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Boeing performed program management, design and integration in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Weapon specialists look on as a mock up of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator sits in bomb bay of the B-2 weapons load trainer Dec. 18 at Whitman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The US has enhanced its biggest bunker buster bomb specifically to enable the destruction of Iran’s underground Fordow uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom. 20 such bombs – the biggest and heaviest bomb in the US arsenal, will be delivered this year, following the completion of upgrades and testing. The redesigned Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) GBU-57A-B is now adapted for operations in heavily contested environment, where it will require to operate against Iran’s most protected nuclear sites. Defense-Update reports.
The target: Iranian uranium enrichment deeply burried underground site at Fordow. Photo: Astrium – ISIS
The White House see the development of the weapon as critical to convincing Israel that the U.S. has the ability to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb if diplomacy fails, and also that Israel’s military can’t do that on its own. According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal, several times in recent weeks, American officials, seeking to demonstrate U.S. capabilities, showed Israeli military and civilian leaders secret Air Force video of an earlier version of the bomb hitting its target in high-altitude testing, and outlined the development made recently to improve the weapon. In the video, the weapon can be seen penetrating the ground within inches of its target, followed by a large underground detonation, according to people who have seen the footage.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the improvements are meant to address U.S. and Israeli concerns that Fordow couldn’t be destroyed from the air. Overcoming that obstacle could also give the West more leverage in diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to curtail its nuclear program. The upgraded MOP was enhanced almost exclusively to hit the Fordow Enrichment Plant, Iran’s largest nuclear facility, located under a mountain near the city of Qom. It’s buried so deep that, according to the Wall Street Journal, experts believe it would take several MOPs to destroy it, with one creating a crater and the rest using the improved guidance system to dive in after it and destroy the complex. The MOP was upgraded because officials didn’t believe the previous version could penetrate Fordow. The bombs could also be used to strike North Korea’s less protected nuclear bunkers. The message the MOP sends is clear: While the United States almost certainly won’t use nuclear weapons, it still has a pretty formidable arsenal capable of taking out even Iran’s most secure facilities, the newspaper added. “We are committed to trying to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear program diplomatically,” Caitlin Hayden, White House National Security Council spokesperson, told the Journal. “But, as President Obama has made clear: The U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. The onus is on Iran and it knows that time is not unlimited.”
The GBU-57A-B weighs 16.6 tonnes (30,000-pound) most of the weight is its steel casing, enabling the 6.24 meter (20 foot) bomb bomb to penetrate through 18 meters (60 foot) of reinforced concrete. Only two platforms currently operational with the US Air Force can carry such a heavy weapon – the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and old B-52H. The Air Force is managing and funding the program, with support from Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The project began in 2004 as a proof of technology demonstration, viewing a conventional weapon that could support the President Bush Nuclear Policy Review, with emphasis on providing conventional weapon options to national commands, thus reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear weapons as a deterrent in the national security strategy. Early tests of MOP were conducted by DTRA under the MOP Technology Demonstration effort. These tests began in 2004 with DTRA partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory. DTRA conducted flight tests from 2008 to 2010.
In February 2010, the DTRA MOP Technology Demonstration transitioned to the Air Force as a Quick Reaction Capability Program demonstrating an operational capability to attack hard and deeply-buried facilities. Air Force officials long stated that they had a long-standing requirement for this capability. In 2009 Boeing was awarded the contracts to complete MOP/Aircraft integration and produce 20 weapons. In recent months the weapon went through the final cycle of upgrades, which adjusted fuses to maximize its burrowing power, adjusted specifically to withstand impact with layers of granite and steel that encase the nuclear facility. Other upgrades address the guidance systems to improve the precision of its inertial navigation system and deny the effect of GPS jamming or other electronic countermeasures. According to the US Air Force, flight tests have been successfully conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
According to Air Force sources, MOP integration activities for initial weapon delivery are also complete. Final system refinement, design and test was completed in 2012 with additional weapon deliveries planned in 2013 but according to sources, the upgraded MOP hasn’t been dropped from a plane yet. Officials said they believe the enhanced bomb would be even more effective against North Korea’s nuclear bunkers, which the U.S. thinks aren’t as heavily fortified as Iran’s.
Weapon specialists gather in front of a mock up of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) and the B-2 weapons load trainer Dec. 18 at Whitman Air Force Base, Mo. In 2012 members of the MOP program team received the 16th annual William J. Perry Award in recognition of their contributions to precision strike systems. The program team, consisting of representatives from the Air Force, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and in partnership with The Boeing Company, was honored for their technical excellence in the development, testing and fielding of the MOP, one of the Secretary of Defense’s number one weapons programs, according to the award citation. Photo: USAF
France has recently published a white paper on defense, the ‘Livre Blanc’ outlines the priorities planned for the next five years, in the areas of national defense – land, air, maritime and space, as a well as as in the areas of homeland security and cyberwarfare. This article covers the main areas addressed by Livre Blanc’s Cybersecurity and Cyber Warfare sections, highlighting specific emphasis and opportunities. Future posts will also cover other aspects of Frances’ national security. Defense-Update reports
Download the white paper (160 pages, French)
The fight against cyber threats has already outlined in the White Paper 2008, addressing the development stage and implementation of response measures. With the increasing scope and persistence of cyber threats, the need for updating and enhancing those measures is evident, protecting critical infrastructure systems and information databases. Securing and protection of information systems are needed to maintain the uninterrupted and healthy state of the French economy and employment.
Overall, France considers implementing information and cyber security, including detection and to identification of perpetrators as measures of national sovereignty, thus, the French legislators are ready to implemented tougher means of cyber surveillance, compared to other European nations such as the UK and Germany. “To achieve this, the government should support scientific skills and technological performance.” The Lievre Blanc stated. As part of the implementation of higher security with government, state and public sector networks, security measures are to be implemented, along with communications channels linking commercial contractors, suppliers and services in the civil sector.
A legislative and regulatory framework will be implemented, setting safety standards addressing security threats, guiding operators to take the necessary measures to detect and treat any incident involving their sensitive computer systems.
This framework will specify the rights and duties of public and private actors, particularly in terms of audits, mapping their information systems, incident reporting and capacity for national security agency Information Systems (ANSSI), and, where appropriate, other services the State to intervene in the event of a serious crisis.
On the operational aspect, communications security and implementation of advanced cryptographic technology will be used to maintain the safety and security of information networks as well as mobile communications systems. To maintain control and security of core networks, France will continue to support the national industry and European performance in this field.
The doctrine of national response to major cyber attack is based on two complementary components:
Protection of information systems and resources at the national level, maintaining security, safety and resilience of systems and operators of critical services and strategic industrial assets. The French Cyber protection operations are coordinated under the authority of the Prime Minister and based on close co-operation of the State to identify and characterise evolving threats.
Active response – adjusting actions in face of attacks, adapted according to the nature and extent of attacks – beginning with diplomatic means, legal or police. Action could also escalate to means available to the Ministry of Defence, if national strategic interests were threatened.
Offensive Cyber Operations
Within this national doctrine France considers the offensive computing capacity, coupled an intelligence capacity, to be a significant contributor to cybersecurity. “It contributes to the threat characterization and identification its origin. It also helps to anticipate some of the attacks and configure defenses accordingly. “ the White Paper stated, adding that “offensive computing technology enriches the range of options available to the state.”
The French approach to offensive cyber relates to “various stages and more or less reversible roughly discrete, that can implement by the defender, corresponding with the magnitude and severity of attacks.
Any ambitious cyber defense policy should rely on partnership and trust. The White Book recommends that relations will be explored with France’s key partners, primarily the United Kingdom and Germany. At European level, France supports the establishment of a European policy of strengthening protection against the risk of critical infrastructure and cyber networks electronic communications.
Education and Awareness
Awareness and education are other aspects of cyber security. The security of the whole information society requires that everyone be aware of the risks and threats and adapts accordingly behaviors and practices. It is also important increase the number of trained experts, to ensure that safety IT studies is integrated and with all higher education in computer science.
Western companies active in the raw materials and energy fields operating from Mauritania to Chad, Algeria and Nigeria, are all exposed to growing terror threats south of the Sahara, even in countries previously considered safe for operations. Dangers are not limited only to the lawless Sahara area, but are expanding to the west and central of the Africa. The increase in terror and crime threats create a new economic and social reality in those countries, providing important resources for the world economy. Mitigating those threats require constant vigilance and effective intelligence, along with heightened security arrangements to deter opponents, thwart attempts of impairing human life and causing damage, while effectively addressing potential emergency situations. i-hlsReports
The continent of Africa, and in particular the countries south of Sahara, are center of wide scale activity for foreign companies. Israeli companies are present here since the early 50s. The activity was first led by the Foreign Office, who in a very short time established tens of Israeli representation offices in African countries, and in this way laid the foundations for activity in the fields of agriculture, security and infrastructure development. Later on, more and more private companies from Israel entered Africa, and performed impressive projects in various areas. During the years the business relations had their ups and downs that were influenced by political moves and events like the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War. Nevertheless, along the entire period a massive Israeli business presence was established in Africa in various fields. The present deterioration in the level of terror threat and crime at the continent of Africa is a blinking red light considering the substantial risk requiring security arrangement against it. However, and since this is the situation, this is also an opportunity for Israeli security companies specializing in management of risks of this type, to provide security solutions for each foreign organization intending to act in these countries, in order to protect the well being of its personnel and safeguard its assets.
An impressive show of force of the radical Islamic organizations in Northern Africa took place last January, when 41 foreign hostages (citizens of USA, UK, Japan, Norway, Philippines, France, Malaysia and Romania) were kidnapped by Islamic extremists at the Amenas gas field near the Algiers-Libya border. This event demonstrates the freedom of action that the terror organizations enjoy at the arena, as the result of lack of organized government and security systems, with an emphasis on countries like Mali and Libya. Also in apparently more stable countries there is a growing trend towards terror activity. Such is happening each day in Nigeria.
Al Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM), El Shabab, and El Bioko Haram are among the terror organizations responsible for kidnapping of foreigners throughout Africa.
More than 230 foreign citizens have been kidnapped at the Delta area in Nigeria since January 2007. In the recent years there is an ever worsening trend, for execution of kidnapping and bombing attacks using a variety of operational methods, focusing at the energy facilities (oil and gas). In addition to the repeating damages to the oil pipelines, also the ships used by the maritime oil production facilities and oil rigs placed opposite the Delta are a prominent target for terror acts.
Since January 2007 till June 2012 there were no less than 79 terror acts and bombing attempts at the Sahel arena only. Nigeria is the greatest oil producer at the African continent, and it is also a model for a security problem and the high level of threats against the energy facilities located in the country.
But the main problem is not just the deteriorating security in Nigeria, but the absence of stability in Western Africa in general. Africa serves at the recent years as a safe haven and operation base for activists who were trained in fighting at the tribal areas in Pakistan. As a result of the massive pressure on Al Qaeda in Afganistan-Pakistan, the substantial threats are not coming anymore from the “original” Al Qaeda, but from organizations identified with Al Qaeda and in particular the ones operating in Africa, such as the Islamic Maghreb Al Qaeda (AQIM), El Shabaab in Somalia and the Nigerian organization El Bioko Haram, who have become a real threat at the African continent in general and at the Sahel area in particular. The “production line” for the continent`s terror factors at the continent has been focused recently in Mali, that has become a “safe haven” for terror activists, and it was not by chance that the French government decided on the Seval operation, aiming to crack down on the Al Qaeda nests in the country.
No country has felt the impact of the fall of Gadafi regime more substantially than Mali, which experienced already in the past lack of stability, coups d’état acts, revolts of the Tuareg population and the influences of terror and crime organizations. But during the recent year Mali experienced all the problems simultaneously.
The author is a former Head of Division at the ISA, and at present Senior Vice President of the MAYDEX AG specializing in energy infrastructure security planning and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Security and Emergency Management at the Wingate Academic College.
Many companies develop systems for border security. Some of these were recently showed in a Border Security Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona, One system is the Pointman Tactical Robot (PTR). “You can throw it through windows and doors, it goes up stairs, it’s self-righting. We can mount 12-gauge shotguns on it, so we can weaponize it as well.”
The PTR, which costs between $23,000 and $35,000, was originally only available to the military, but is currently being used by the FBI and LAPD for reconnaissance missions where it could be dangerous for humans to enter.
Other inventions shown off at the expo included a license plate recognition system which would help police, but also ordinary businesses who want to catch people parking in unauthorized spaces; a video camera system that can be worn by law enforcement which can gather video and sound which could later be used in court; and ammunition rounds that flatten on impact in order to “obtain the proper amount of pain to enable target compliance.”
The Expo, which featured some 185 companies, gave both start-ups and established companies the chance to show off their inventions in an effort to pitch projects to federal agencies.
In addition to inventions, the expo also demonstrated that many of the systems and weapons systems that were used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now becoming available to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
One example is the Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) software which gives law enforcement significant surveillance powers in urban or rural areas. PSIM makes it possible for several agencies to share information and make incident responses faster and more effective.
Defense Update is a media sponsor of Border Security Expo. The next edition the US/Canada Border Conference will take place in September 10-11, 2013 at the Cobo Center, Detroit, MI.