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    Countering the UAS Threat

    The Drone Dome C-UAS system can be augmented by a high energy laser emitter that can be used against low flying drones at relatively close ranges. More powerful systems, like the Iron Beam, can engage drones and rockets at longer range. Photo: Rafael

    The ongoing wars in Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and the Middle East have emphasized drones as a new and rapidly changing tool of warfare. First manifested in the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, were famous for their ability to perform extended reconnaissance and rapidly close attack loops in hybrid and asymmetric warfare. Today, these large and expensive drones encounter difficulties surviving over contested areas encountered by Iranian-made radar-guided Sayyad-2 anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile (SAM) and Counter-UAS optimized optically guided missiles, such as the Iranian Saqr Type 358 UAS interceptor powered by a micro-turbine jet engine. Both have been used successfully against US and Israeli drones over Yemen and Lebanon.

    Drone Usage in Recent Conflicts

    In the Ukraine war, MALE drones cannot survive, but much smaller and cheaper tactical UAS, such as the Russian Z-16, manage to survive for longer missions, along with many types of one-way attack (OWA) drones widely used on both sides. When these drones operate on extended missions, they may not enjoy the freedom of action they had only months ago. The Ukrainians have recently begun to employ FPV drones to intercept fixed-wing surveillance drones using the FPV drone as a ‘hit to kill’ interceptor. Used against multirotor drones, other systems employ various means to disable the drone’s rotors, such as nets, traps, or nylon strips to entangle them.

    In the Middle East, all participants use OWA drones widely. While most attacks launched from long ranges (Iraq, Syria, and Yemen) are repelled by Israel, the mountainous area of South Lebanon and the Galilee poses a challenge for the detection and interception of OWA drones launched by the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah. The Lebanese group has acquired much experience with the new weapons and directed many of the attacks against Israeli surveillance systems to blind Israeli sensors and capabilities to intercept those attacks. Initially, Israel was slow to react, but after several weeks, it managed to eliminate most of the suicide drones flown into Israel.

    Challenges in Countering OWA Drones

    Countering OWA drones is challenging, especially since they are ‘dark,’ meaning they operate automatically or autonomously without external guidance control. Moreover, as these targets get smaller and more maneuverable, they are even more difficult to detect, track, and engage.

    Like air defenses, detection and early warning are the most challenging tasks. The most efficient sensors – radars are effective in flat and open terrain, but their coverage is limited and often degraded in mountainous or urban areas, necessitating augmentation by other means, such as electro-optical and thermal imagers. These sensors rely on deep learning and neural networks (artificial intelligence – AI) processing to identify drones based on a combination of signals, such as shape, rotation, and motion patterns, as target identifiers, ensuring that detected objects are drones.

    Electro-Optical and Infrared Detection Systems

    EO systems can support detecting and verifying UAS targets at extremely long ranges, particularly when engaging fixed-wing, high-flying drones detectable by radar but requiring tracking assistance from other systems. Controp recently introduced a comprehensive range of integrated EO/IR systems under the I-TACT product line for mobile, deployable, and fixed C-UAS and Air Defense applications. Optimized for spotting and tracking low-signature targets, the I-TACT line provides passive scanning, classification, and tracking of loitering drones at ranges from six to 40 km or small mini-drones at one to six kilometers. Controp offers I-TACT integration into existing optronic systems with the performance level required for Detection, Recognition, and Identification (DRI) at long range, or as part of new systems. Enhanced image processing capabilities improve the I-TACT system’s performance, allowing the system to focus on specific regions of interest in the picture to improve target recognition, automatic flight path prediction, and tracking, enabling users to improve UAS detection and engagement.

    Third Eye Systems offers the integration of its TESSERACT aEYE deep learning neural network algorithm as an add-on for EO/IR imagers produced by other manufacturers. The algorithm upgrades any payload by adding AI-based analytic processing to enable drone detection, recognition, and tracking in the sky. One of the applications is the vEYE system, which is employed on manned and unmanned ground vehicles to improve situational awareness. The IDF has been using the systems in the recent war, enabling the developers to gain extensive experience in drone-operated and counter-UAS activities.

    Elbit Systems has integrated COMINT, EO, and EW systems into a mobile C-UAS system, which can also be integrated with a mobile radar and a weapon station. Photo: Elbit Systems

    Counter-UAS Systems

    Counter-UAS (C-UAS) missions can be achieved by electronic warfare (‘soft kill’) or by kinetic means (‘hard kill’). Systems relying on soft kill often employ several layers of engagement, attempting to jam or spoof the drone’s navigation systems or active jamming targeting the drone’s control channels. Both require rapid electronic scanning to identify the drone’s operating frequencies and electronic signature to proceed with an effective attack. Such systems should also be agile to track any changes the enemy has made to evade countermeasures. Several Israeli developers have fielded advanced land-based and mobile C-UAS systems to counter drone attacks. These include IAI with its Drone Guard, Elbit Systems with the ReDrone, and RAFAEL fielding the Drone Dome.

    Traditional active counter-drone detection methods, such as radars, can be detected by electronic surveillance, exposing the sensor’s position to the enemy. Employing signals intelligence means passively providing the same service without revealing the sensor’s position. Unlike systems that rely on radar and EO/IR for detection, tracking, and identification, the new generation of C-UAS systems relies on passive Radio Frequency (RF) sensing and protocol recognition to detect, track, and engage rogue drones. Independent of an active radar or line of sight for EO/IR sensors, these new systems can better handle complex urban areas and operate in an RF-saturated environment with minimal interference.

    D-Fend EW C-UAS and the PITBULL remote weapon station are integrated into this armored truck to provide a combined soft and Hhrd Kill element in Resources Industries’ C-UAS solution seen here on the Czech Patriot II armored vehicle. Photo: Defense-Update

    Soft-Kill EW Solutions

    Israel’s C-UAS specialist D-Fend offers the EnforceAir 2 C system configured in a backpack, vehicular, or mast mount to protect a fixed site. The core of the system is the Cyber SDR hardware packing multiple receivers for real-time scanning and processing, with advanced RF Cyber technology feeding multiple transmitters and advanced antennae that optimize radiation and throughput to deliver the highest volume and weight ratio performance.

    Another company providing integrated RF-Cyber C-UAS solutions is Sentrics. Their system can detect multiple targets simultaneously, even under GPS spoofing or jamming, often used to distract drones. Sentrics also monitors each drone’s position and heading, locating their coordinates and their controller’s last known location. It also reports the drone’s vendor, type, and serial number for commercial drones. For the mitigation part, the system can employ jamming to disconnect the drone from the controller and bring it to a safe altitude and a safe landing in designated areas or employ ‘smart disconnect’ resulting in the drone entering “Hover until it dies” mode or “Return home”, according to the way the drone was programmed.

    The lightweight, remotely controlled Smash AD uses powerful video processing for target tracking and fire control. Photo: Smartshooter

    Tactical Solutions for Front-line Units

    However, while protocol-based mitigation effectively engages rogue commercial drones, the ground forces at the front line cannot rely only on specialized air-defense assets, especially when engaged by suicide drones or improvised First-Person View (FPV) drones, which are commonly used in the Ukrainian war but have not yet appeared by the terrorist groups in the Middle East. A tactical unit or individual being attacked by such weapons should be able to defend themselves using every means. The SMASH weapon sight developed by Smartshooter provides such capability. Mounted on the rifle, machine gun, or remote weapon station, SMASH enables users to independently identify targets or leverage detection system guidance for precision locking. Harnessing Artificial Intelligence, computer vision, and advanced algorithms to track and track the target assigned by the user. SMASH tracks the target movements and synchronizes the shot release when the line of fire aligns with the correct ballistics to ensure an accurate hit.

    Non-Lethal Countermeasures

    Non-lethal countermeasures are employed against surveillance drones or those flying over civilian areas. Such means may include capturing quadcopters with arresting gear, as the Goshawk from Robotican performed. This six-rotor C-UAS vehicle can be deployed to augment the security system of a strategic site. Once a drone is detected, the Goshawk is scrambled to intercept it. Its autonomous flight and targeting capability include in-flight target detection, tracking, lock and seek. For the end game, Goshawk employs an arresting net to interrupt the rotor blades and catch the targeted drone, thus preventing the risk of the drone hitting the ground with explosives.

    Further Reading:

    Iron Swords War – Air Defense Challenge

    Arrow 3 interceptor missile launched from Palmachim missile test site on Israel's Mediterranean shore, December 10, 2015. Photo: IMOD

    The Iron Swords War has been waged between Israel and the proxy groups controlled by Iran for ten months. Before the breakout of hostilities, the conflict with Iran was managed covertly in Syria and Iraq. The war that broke out on October 7, 2023, opened with a surprise attack by the Gazan terrorist group Hamas against Israeli military forces and civilian communities along the Israel-Gaza border. It rapidly expanded into an overt regional conflict involving ballistic missile attacks, cruise missiles, suicide drones, and other loitering weapons launched from different locations as far out as Yemen and Iraq.

    Unlike the conflict in Gaza that involved land forces on both sides, most activities on the other fronts were conducted in the aerial domain, which tasked Israeli air defense forces to spread out their assets, learn to adapt and improve under fire, and engage different threats, the new techniques, and tactics developed by the enemy.

    Iranian Attack on Israeli Defenses

    On April 14, 2024, following an Israeli air attack on Iranian targets near their embassy in Damascus, Syria, this regional conflict erupted in an exceptionally violent event, as the Iranian forces directly attacked Israel using hundreds of weapons.

    This extraordinary act required the entire Israeli air defense system, along with the regional air defense coalition established by Israel, its neighbors, and allies, to respond. The attack involved hundreds of launches from hundreds of kilometers away, dozens of cruise missiles, and over 120 ballistic missiles launched from over a thousand kilometers. This attack directly challenged Israel’s multilayered defense network, primarily fighter aircraft, David’s Sling, and Arrow Weapon System. It was not the first time such intercepts occurred. Before that event, Israel’s air defenses performed exo-atmospheric intercepts of ballistic and cruise missiles launched against Israel from Yemen, but the massive attack and the challenge posed by the massive Iranian attack were unprecedented. The Iranians were determined to win this round. Eventually, they lost, as most of their weapons were intercepted far from Israeli borders, and the few that did penetrate caused no significant damage.

    Israel’s Multilayered Defense Network

    This phenomenal success is attributed to Israel’s multilayered defense network that relies on a coalition of nations from several NATO members and some of Israel’s neighbors in the region, organized following the ‘Abraham Accord’ peace agreements and under the cooperation of those nations within the US Central Command. While coalition members and air forces provided the forward defense, Israel’s multi-layered air and missile defense system provided an effective shield for Israel’s sovereign area over land, sea, and air space.

    This formidable effort was not tested ad hoc but required many preparations, simulations, and training to sharpen and coordinate the actions across the region. Israeli defense companies have developed essential tools for such simulations. For example, Omnisys is the solution provider of the IDF Mission Planning and Optimization System for Israel’s multi-layer missile defense systems. A typical battlespace optimization system is the Battlespace Resource Optimization (BRO), developed by Omnisys, which provides optimal planning, execution, and debriefing for large-scale military operations.

    Early Warning Systems

    The first layer of defense is early warning, provided by a comprehensive radar network comprising the IAI ELTA Sy’ Green Pine and Multi-Mission radars (MMR). Israel is recognized as a world leader in radar technology, and the radars associated with Israeli air defense systems are attributed to the key advantages of these systems. (More on Elta’s air defense radars)

    Arrow 3 interceptor launched from the IDF missile test site on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv Photo: IMOD
    Arrow-4 will be the next generation of endo-exoatmospheric interceptors in the Arrow weapon system, which today consists of Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 interceptors. It will address a wide range of evolving threats in the region and will replace the Arrow-2 interceptors over the next decades. Image: IAI

    Missile Defense Systems

    The Arrow Weapon System (AWS), developed and built by IAI, is part of Israel’s HOMA (guardian wall) multi-layered missile defense system that consists of the Arrow 3 and Arrow 2 interceptors that are capable of intercepting ballistic missile targets at ranges of hundreds of kilometers, these intercepts are managed by the Golden Almond Battle Management Center, which also manages RAFAEL’s David’s Sling interceptors designed to intercept maneuvering targets at medium and long ranges, such as cruise missiles. Apart from Israel, Germany and Finland have chosen ARROW 3 (Germany) and DAVID’s Sling (Finland) systems.

    In 2021, the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), in the Directorate of Defense R&D (MAFAT) of the Israel Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), commenced the development of the Arrow-4 system. Arrow-4 will be the next generation of endo-exoatmospheric interceptors in the Arrow weapon system. Arrow 4 is currently under development and is believed to augment and replace the Arrow 2, offering improved maneuverability in atmospheric flight and enhanced engagement envelope against advanced missiles. The Israeli missile-defense roadmap also includes Arrow 5, but no details were released on this initiative. David’s Sling also had a successful combat debut during the recent war. Another new interceptor being offered by RAFAEL is the Sky Sonic, an interceptor optimized to engage hypersonic missiles at their mi-and terminal stage.

    The SkySonic – Israel’s new interceptor designed to kill hypersonic threats. Illustration: RAFAEL
    Rafael’s Iron Beam high-power laser system will become part of Israel’s multi-layered air and missile defense system. Photo: IMOD

    Energy Weapons – Lasers & RF

    Israel’s air and missile defense capabilities currently rely on multiple layers of interceptors that provide a tight and effective defensive capability against incoming ballistic and cruise missiles and rockets of all sizes. This multi-layered system is excellent but costly, as it requires expensive interceptors to deal with every target that poses a risk to populated areas, strategic sites, or other targets with military significance. For many years, Israel’s leading electro-optics pioneer ELOP, part of Elbit Systems, has been developing lasers of various types. In recent years, the company has achieved breakthroughs in high-energy solid-state laser technology, which is currently implemented in several weaponization programs.

    The first is RAFAEL’s Iron Beam, a solid-state high-power laser positioned to augment the company’s Iron Dome systems, enabling the engagement and destruction of rockets, missiles, and drones within seconds at short range. Iron Beam introduces a low-cost intercept option using high-power laser beams instead of interceptor missiles or guns. This capability introduces a ‘cost per kill’ of several cents rather than tens of thousands of dollars. The Israeli high-energy solid-state laser systems are scalable, enabling the use of laser weapons in relocatable installations on vehicles, naval vessels, helicopters, and drones, introducing groundbreaking weaponization capabilities for future warfare.

    Short-Range Air Defense

    Another layer of defense is RAFAEL’s Iron Dome, which has been fielding and intercepting thousands of enemy rockets since 2011. Originally designed to intercept rockets at short range, the Iron Dome has been enhanced to act as a Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) asset, improving its capability to intercept short and medium-range rockets and some types of unmanned aerial targets. The naval version – Sea Dome, has also been integrated into Israeli Navy Magen corvettes, which are employed to defend Israeli coastal areas and offshore assets. RAFAEL has recently added the new IRON LANCE interceptor to the Iron Dome’s arsenal, optimizing a load of its 20-cell magazine to engage fast and slow targets such as UAS. RAFAEL is also developing a High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon, the Iron Beam, which will be integrated as the lowest layer of Israel’s multilayered defense system to introduce a sustainable and efficient means of interception, providing an improved battle economy.

    Spyder AiO is performing an intercept test in the southern Negev desert in Israel in 2024. Photo: Rafael

    Integration of Defense Systems

    Developed in the late 1990s, HOMA gradually integrated different weapon systems, some locally produced, others employing foreign assets integrated into the system during emergencies. This integration is enabled by a comprehensive battle management architecture that allows each system to sync its operation with the joint mission.
    Other Israeli defensive systems include IAI’s BARAK MX air and missile defense network, which provides a wide area defense rather than a point defense. It enables the air defender to distribute fire units over a large area, each operating independently and maintaining full networking with other sensors and fire units to provide adequate coverage over land and sea. BARAK MX is used by several nations and navies worldwide. Another innovative concept is RAFAEL’s Spyder All-In-One (AIO) system, which integrates a complete Spyder air defense system into a single vehicle. This mobile configuration enables quick relocation of air defense assets and independent operation of fire assets, introducing new capabilities and flexibility for the air defense effort.

    More articles in this series:

     

    SeaGuardian UAS Assumes Net-Enabled Weapons Capability

    GA-ASI and Lockheed Martin Developing Net-Enabled Weapons Capability for MQ-9B SeaGuardian. Photo: GA-ASI

    General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) are collaborating to provide Net-Enabled Weapons (NEW) capability for GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The addition of NEW capability for SeaGuardian will bolster the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR&T) capability for the aircraft, enabling the platform to rapidly engage targets based on real-time intelligence collected by its sensors. Such capabilities are already supported by the MQ-9 but were not yet implemented by the MQ-8B SeaGuardian.

    The NEW technology provides expanded sensor targeting applications for the precision targeting of long-range weapons. SeaGuardian’s demonstrated persistence coupled with its vast array of precision targeting sensors enables more efficient kill chains, especially in contested environments. GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAS, and SeaVue multi-role radar from Raytheon, an RTX business, will effectively leverage Lockheed Martin’s extensive NEW expertise to further refine targeting capabilities for future theater deployments. Initial testing was completed on June 5, 2024, with F/A-18s on the U.S. Navy’s W-289 test range in Southern California.

    GA-ASI and Lockheed Martin have been developing Link 16 messages to communicate with weapons inflight using the SeaGuardian Systems Integration Lab (SIL) in preparation for overwater range test flight.

    “This is a very important system attribute for SeaGuardian to enable naval long-range targeting CONOPS against high-end threats at much less risk to manned platforms,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “We appreciate Lockheed Martin’s support in helping us prove out the NEW technology, which is an important component of our ISR&T capability.”

    MQ-9B SeaGuardian is a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS. Its multi-domain capabilities allow it to flex from mission to mission. SeaGuardian has been used by the U.S. in several recent demonstrations, including Northern Edge, Integrated Battle Problem, and Group Sail.

    The Evolving Role of Military Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

    IAF Heron TP Male drone takes off on a combat mission from an IAF base. Photo: IAF

    Recent combat operations have demonstrated the profound influence of unmanned aerial vehicles on recent warfare. While UAVs have been operational for 50 years, operating them as complete systems, delivering missions with lethal effects in real-time is a new trend.

    Large UAVs for Strategic Roles

    Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 and IAI Heron 1 represent the UAVs supporting the operational level in service with the Israel Air Force. Originally claimed to operate only in intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), Israel confirmed its drones are also armed for routine strike missions on all fronts. The Hermes and Heron drones were among the first aerial assets that could respond with fires to the surprise attack on October 7, 2023; alas, this was not enough to stem the flood.

    Since 2010, the IAF has fielded larger MALE drones, including the IAI Heron TP and Elbit System’s Hermes 900. These platforms are operated parallel to legacy systems, providing increased payload capacity, simultaneous use of multiple payloads, longer endurance, and operations at extended ranges provided by their integral BVLOS satellite link. As large platforms, MALE drones are tasked with missions that can span over days and flow at a long range. Such platforms are highly capable of persistent surveillance and precision attack in hostile areas, as long as the enemy is not equipped with surface-to-air weapons.

    However, as slow platforms lack agility and maneuverability, they become easy targets for air defenses, as seen in Ukraine, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Given this high vulnerability, air forces consider withdrawing MALE drones to operate from a stand-off range, relying on long-range optronics, radars, and long-range cruise missiles and guided rockets.

    Tactical UAS Swarms and Teams

    The new penetrating layer could rely on small tactical UAS. An example is primarily Aeronautics’ Orbiter 4, recently fielded by the IAF. Unlike the individual MALE platforms, these drones operate in large groups to effectively cover large areas. This new operation concept is part of RAFAEL’s ‘Storm Clouds’ system of systems. Elbit Systems has also introduced the FAST Capsule, combining UAS and loitering weapons in a combat team that searches, locates, targets, and strikes as a team.

    Bluebird UAV ThunderB VTOL. Photo: BlueBird

    Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAS

    Another new trend is the deployment of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) small tactical drones, a trend hinged on commercial technologies that began in early 2020. Initially, the Israeli industry was slow to adapt, which opened a window for small companies to evolve. Unlike the large fixed-wing UAS field dominated by large prime contractors, the VTOL field is led by young start-ups like Attis Aviation, Copterpix, Hevendrones, Robotican, Spear UAS, and Xtend, along with veteran UAS developers like BlueBird and Steadycopter that were ready to embrace the new trend.

    Unlike large primes, they aim not at market dominance but at specific niches each company addresses. These niches include reconnaissance and surveillance, including indoors and underground, load carrying, countering other UAS and strike missions with small arms and grenades, dropping small bombs, and suicide missions, where the drone is destroyed with its lethal charge.

    The latter category includes loitering weapons and One-Way Attack (OWA) drones. Let’s review these unique products and their applications.

    Platforms and Load Carriers

    Octoper Hybrid UAS can extend its mission endurance to four hours using a combined ICE-Electric propulsion. Photo: Aeronauticssystem.

    Aeronautics Octoper

    One of Israel’s more established drone manufacturers, Aeronautics, has developed a wide range of fixed-wing UAS, from the MALE-type Dominator to the Orbiter 2 loitering weapon. Two years ago, the company entered the field of multi-rotor platforms, initially adding a VTOL kit to the Orbiter 3 small tactical UAS and later introducing the Trojan Unmanned Hovering Platform (UHP). In 2024, Aeronautics expanded its portfolio with another VTOL platform – the Octoper. This heavy multirotor platform is designed for autonomous operation and high survivability, which are required in military missions. Using an electrically powered octo-quadrotor configuration, the Octoper can be augmented with a hybrid kit to extend mission endurance to four hours and operate at a distance of up to 100 km. Octoper can be assigned to many missions, including the carriage of multiple sensors on reconnaissance missions or logistic support, such as delivering medical equipment. Designed with foldable arms and rotors, the flexible and modular drone is rapidly deployed within five minutes of its arrival at the launch point.

    Aerotor and IAI have partnered to develop the Apus 25 multirotor UAV. Image: IAI

    Aerotor Apus

    Aerotor is developing a hybrid propulsion system for drones with a fuel-efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) and electrical motors powered by stored electrical energy generated by the ICE. Unlike other multirotor drones, the Apus uses a central steering system (CSS) that manages the four blades at a fixed RPM, with flight control executed by a variable pitch system, like a helicopter, resulting in more efficient aerodynamics. Unlike helicopters, the Apus do not use swash plates, resulting in a simpler mechanical design. Aerotor plans to produce systems capable of carrying heavy payloads of up to 200 kg. Currently, the company envisions four versions – the Apus 10, carrying a payload of 6 kg; the Apus 30, carrying 30 kg; Apus 170, designed to carry 100 kg; and the Apus 300 Gulliver, designed to carry 200 kg. Earlier this year, the company partnered with IAI to develop the Apus 25, which is optimized for IAI’s requirements. All versions will have a mission endurance of nine hours and operate beyond the line of sight at ranges up to 120km.

    Attis Aviation ROC

    The company develops a runway-independent medium-sized VTOL UAV called ROC. It is powered by a Hybrid Propulsion System – a heavy fuel engine that accepts JP-8 and JET-A1, combined with four electrical motors, generating the necessary lift on takeoff, landing, and hover. ROC is designed as a certifiable aerial platform for flight in Civilian airspace. The combined propulsion is optimized for long endurance and extended missions. At a maximum takeoff weight of 150 kg, ROC can carry 40 kg of useful payload and remain airborne for 20 hours. Flying at a cruising speed of 50 knots, it can operate up to 150 km from its control station, provided it remains within line of sight. It is equipped for LOS and BLOS communication and functions well even in GPS-denied environments. Its maiden flight is expected by the fall of 2024. (Attis Aviation)

    Read more on Israel’s Aerospace and Defense innovations:

    AFV Situational Awareness in the Urban Battlespace

    Plasan's Flexfense counter-RPG armor effectively disables RPG warheads before they hit the vehicle's base armor. Image: Plasan
    Plasan has introduced a new type of top armor called Hedgehog, desinged to disable bomblets from penetrating a vehicle’s top side. Image: Plasan

    Armored fighting vehicles face other challenges when operating in urban combat. They are exposed to snipers or anti-tank teams operating from elevated positions on rooftops or accessing underground shafts too close for the crew to respond. In these conditions, technology must augment situational awareness, allowing the crew or defensive systems to focus on the most relevant threat. These capabilities are already operational with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

    360° armor protection is a must, and several companies are addressing this requirement with new protection systems. Active protection systems, like Rafael’s Trophy and Elbit Systems’ Iron-Fist, combine radar and Electro-optical sensors, high-performance processors, and different effectors, from explosively formed projectiles through blasts to lasers to destroy incoming projectiles. The latest enhancements introduced with these systems include dual-sensor capability (radar+EO) and top attack engagements being considered by the developers of both systems. However, APS adds considerable weight to the vehicle and requires a substantial base armor for optimal function.

    Other systems include passive systems, like the Hedgehog top-side and flexFence counter-RPG armor, added to the base armor. Both are offered by Plasan. These ‘statistical protection’ means can reduce the probability of penetration by up to 80 percent compared to base armor.

    Another essential is peripheral vision. Unfortunately, transparent armor provides such capabilities at a substantial weight penalty. Nevertheless, modern vehicles require transparent armor as base armor to ensure situational awareness, driving, and crew performance. Such systems are provided by OSG.

    The IDF Namer heavy armored personnel carrier uses this transparent armor vision system produced by OSG as part of its armor. The left vision block on the right image was hit but retained its transparency. A vision block hit by a high-power rifle is shown on the left. Despite the high impact, it retained structural integrity to a level that absorbed the impact and prevented penetration but lost transparency. Photo: OSG

    Imco, a supplier of electrical and electronic systems for AFVs, offers a Situational Awareness Video System (SAVS Ai) that provides 360° surveillance and protection for combat vehicles. and transforms situational awareness and decision-making capabilities. The system integrates cameras, sensors, an advanced video matrix, an AI application for real-time sensor data analysis, and multiple user displays, enabling commanders and crew members to maintain complete situational awareness in all combat situations.

    Some of these combat vehicles also employ the Vehicle Control Module (VCM) system produced by the company. The system collects data from onboard systems, including the engine, transmission, tracks, etc., and interprets and provides an overview of the vehicle’s status, ensuring optimal performance and reduced wear and downtime by recommending proactive maintenance activities.

    Such powerful processing systems require high-performance data communications operating at low latency and high bandwidth to ensure real-time operations. Digital backbone (DBB) services, such as the AITECH’s DBB, provide such services. Such systems are implemented in Active Protection Systems (APS), advanced mission computers, rapid sensors, and data processing & transfer. The DBB provides a seamless integration of high-speed, reliable, and secure connectivity between electronic systems. Time-sensitive networking (TSN) and L3/Ethernet connectivity enable data to pass easily between endpoints and networks. This application is suitable for critical time-sensitive traffic, with low to mid latency. A modular solution aligned with SOSA technical standards and Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) architecture. Among the products and systems are GPUPU-based systems leveraging the latest NVIDIA processors, facilitating AI and Edge processing applications.

    Peripheral vision is a new function that has received dramatic new meaning in recent combat. Edge 360 is a peripheral vision system developed by Axon Vision that has already been implemented in several AFVs. The system enables the vehicle commander to operate continuously with closed hatches while providing complete situational awareness from close range in a single view. Leveraging the power of machine vision, this simplified user interface reduces the cognitive load and required attention while maximizing the vehicle’s lethality and survivability. Automatic detection, recognition, and tracking of static and dynamic targets (Action recognition). The modular system contains AI clusters (Day/Night Camera, GPU, and AI algorithm) and a central processing unit. Real-time video communication distribution system with very low latency. Decentralized embedded GPUs architecture combined with central processing capabilities. The system also provides Distance estimation using EO and TI sensors.

    AI-powered 360° vision solutions. Photo: Maris Tech

    Another company providing is Maris Tech. The system integrates five peripheral cameras, ensuring no blind spots. All cameras are monitored simultaneously and in real-time by a powerful yet compact AI processor, utilizing low-power, high-performance AI processors from Hailo AI. The system enables the crew to receive alerts of potential threats in their surroundings and act against them. The system employs an edge processor that processes the video streams from the cameras with AI to detect and alert of nearby objects and suspicious actions. All images are displayed on a central screen, which can also be integrated into the platform’s network. The system provides powerful threat detection, alerts, and precise responses to dismounted threats. Suitable for urban combat and can be integrated into a wide.

    The Jupiter AI processor is a powerful, compact, low-power board. Image: Maris Tech

    System services are extended beyond peripheral situational awareness by leveraging the powerful AI edge processing capabilities. For example, Axon-Vision’s EdgeSight and AI-NGCV SmartScopes empower commanders and gunners of combat vehicles to Use the Axon-Vision open architecture software SDK to connect and integrate with the sight and existing communication solutions like BMS.

    AI functions help commanders perform terrain analysis, enabling smart scanning for targets on a large area while simultaneously keeping track of visible targets. Once targets are acquired, Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) is performed to recognize targets, their attributes, and context (“person on the roof,” “car in the field,” “person near treeline”). Then, target data is sent to the main gun, weapon station, or external effector for engagement. Once targets are referred from another observer system, AI helps in rapid reacquisition between scopes. Using appearance, location, and intuitive UI for target acquisition and re-identification reduces the risk of errors in matching targets between sensors. When several effectors are available for engagement, AI may assist in selecting the weapon with the optimal results based on weapon and projectile optimal fire doctrine for each target and its context and location.

    Further Reading:

    Israel’s Indoor Surveillance and Attack Drones

    Magic Fly Nano indoor surveillance drone. Photo: Rafael

    Operating drones low above ground and in complex terrain represents unique challenges, as most drone controls are limited to line of sight and uninterrupted satellite-based navigation. To endure in a GNSS-contested environment and operate indoors or underground, standard drones would not operate in such conditions. The drone platforms specially designed for subterranean or indoor environments require unique networking, sensing, navigation, and controls to enable such operations. Since these missions are complex and the drones are small, they are used in mission-specific roles such as autonomous mappers, FPV-operated lead elements, and armed effectors.

    RAFAEL’s Magic Fly System

    RAFAEL’s Magic Fly is a typical mapper. With a large battery, it is equipped for longer missions. Carrying multiple sensors, it autonomously generates a map of the indoor space. As a robotic teammate, Magic Fly Raven can operate autonomously for 15 minutes in any terrain and in a GPS-denied environment. As a pathfinder, it generates a 3D mapping of the target. With its ATR, it automatically detects potential hostile targets or weapons in its path.

    When the team closes in, they release a swarm of Magic Fly Nano. These autonomous flying bots are much smaller than the Raven and can fly through narrow passages. These nano drones have a low acoustic signature, and they are equipped with sensors that extend the Raven’s 3D map with 2D mapping and assist the team in close-quarter battles, enabling the team to establish first contact in multi-story operations. According to visuals released by IDF special operations forces, the system is fully developed and appears to have been used in recent IDF activities.

    Three Lanius class miniature suicide drones are mounted on a carrier multirotor drone for deployment indoors. Photo: Elbit Systems

    Elbit Systems’ Lanius

    Another drone sensor built for indoor combat is the Lanius, a search and attack system packed into a single platform developed by Elbit Systems. Lanius weighs 1.25 kg and carries a payload of 150 gr. Equipped with AI technology that allows autonomous outdoor and indoor navigation, mapping, obstacle avoidance, scanning of buildings to identify openings, enemy detection and classification, target incrimination by humans and machines, and lethality.

    Launched from a larger drone, Lanius can be deployed close to the target and operate inside for seven minutes. It can also be used in an Ambush mode, enabling the Lanius to perch and wait for hostiles to appear.

    Xtend’s Scorpio quadrotor drone was developed for indoor operations, utilizing the company’s intuitive XOS operating systems, enabling every soldier to become a drone operator in a few minutes. Image: Xtend

    Xtend’s Indoor Drones

    A specialist in indoor drones is Xtend with their Xtender, a miniature drone enabling intuitive indoor control using a hand controller and virtual reality goggles displaying the drone’s view to the remote operator. This multirotor UAS is specially adapted for the indoor environment; as a multi-mission robot, it is equipped with cameras and other sensors for surveillance missions and can carry other effectors, enabling the operator to engage targets.

    Like other aerial vehicles from Xtend, the Xtender uses the company’s OSX operating system to implement human-assisted autonomy to fly the mission. Most operations are automated, such as navigation, situational awareness, hovering, and station-keeping. The system enables the operation of several drones simultaneously in a coordinated manner, displaying sensor views from several drones for wider situational awareness.

    Xtend offers several models for indoor operations, including the Xtender Mini, built specifically for indoors, the Xtender for indoor and outdoor use with a 1-1.5 kg payload capacity and lethal capabilities, and the Scorpio for indoor and outdoor use.

    Robotican’s Rooster

    Another indoor drone is the Rooster – a flying multirotor drone encapsulated in a roll cage produced by Robotican. This energy-efficient configuration enables the vehicle to move on the ground and ‘jump’ to maneuver above obstacles, making it suitable for subterranean and indoor operations.

    Unlike other multirotor drones, Rooster can silently perch and stare for a long time as an overwatch. Utilizing a mesh radio network, it efficiently operates in communications-denied areas, leveraging seamless relay functions of all network members. Compared to mini and nano drones, which are limited to a few minutes or up to 15 minutes of flight, Rooster can fly for up to 15 minutes and operate for 40 minutes of ground movement.

    Developed by Robotican and DDR&D, Robotican also employs the Rooster with Ghost Robotics’ V60 quadruped (legged) unmanned ground vehicle (Q-UGV) in a cooperative mission system, combining a legged robot dog with the Rooster drone.

    Further reading:

    Dismounted Situational Awareness in the Urban Battlespace

    The Lynx vision system provides the user an information layer displaying geographical and data symbols augmented on the world view. Pgoto: Asio Technologies

    Historically, military forces favored battles in open terrain, as the confines of urban terrain, forests, or narrow mountain passages are the defender’s forte. Therefore, when urban combat is unavoidable, the fighting force must be well-prepared and equipped to tackle the challenges and take advantage of the situation. The urban environments present unique challenges that require advanced situational awareness for effective operations. The urban battlespace is highly advantageous to the dismounted defender. The dense and complex terrain, comprising built-up or ruined landscapes, along with a complex maze of boulevards, streets, and paths, provides multiple points of engagement by mines, IEDs, booby traps, and ambushes. Battled cities are full of debris, providing many hideouts for small forces.

    Tall buildings dominate their surroundings, offering vantage positions for snipers and anti-tank teams. Underground features (specially prepared tunnels or sewers) allow defenders to exploit the subterranean dimension. demand sophisticated strategies and technologies to ensure mission success and minimize collateral damage. This article delves into the critical importance of situational awareness in urban battlespaces, exploring the latest innovations and methodologies that empower military forces to navigate, observe, and respond with precision and agility. Through enhanced situational awareness, commanders and soldiers can achieve superior operational effectiveness, safeguarding both their objectives and the lives of non-combatants.

    Soldiers are required to carry out complex missions on this terrain. Facing enemy ambushes or infantry forces in close combat, dismounted forces are required to conduct tough Close Quarters Combat (CQB) where conventional technology has little to offer. Situational Awareness is key to maintaining an advantage by denying the enemy the element of surprise and providing the combined arms force the opportunity to deploy the most effective means against threats. Unlike previous generations, where technologies providing situational awareness were located at the brigade or division, lagging hours or even days from what was happening at the forward line, today’s SA requires real-time efficiency and is designed to provide the tank commander and infantry team leader the information they need without delay.

    The latest version of the Orion is smaller, lighter, and more advanced. It incorporates enhanced features with a ‘Geo Fusion Core’ that offers image-to-map transformation to augment geo-reference map symbols in the visual picture. These functions leverage AI features to assist coordination and targeting. Photo: Asio Technologies

    The Orion is a typical device that enables situational awareness at the dismounted team level. Asio Technologies developed this rugged, smartphone-like handheld device to enable off-grid and on-grid mission planning, real-time navigation, and enhanced situational awareness. Orion uses a Geographic Information System (GIS) database and Augmented Reality (AR) to display points of interest relative to the user’s position.

    Orion is designed to assist individual soldiers and commanders up to the battalion level, allowing them to exchange real-time information about targets, coordination, and their own locations. It securely interfaces with the company’s Lynx Tactical hand-held multi-function display. This day/night augmentation system provides dismounted troops with powerful machine vision algorithms to enhance the tactical operation and situation awareness and reduce cognitive load. The system features daylight video IR imaging and a rangefinder. The latest version is smaller, lighter, and more advanced. It incorporates enhanced features with a ‘Geo Fusion Core’ that offers image-to-map transformation to augment geo-reference map symbols in the visual picture. These functions leverage AI features to assist coordination and targeting.

    Communication in an urban and ruined area is challenging. Electronic devices must be reliable and available in all operating scenarios for the warfighter to trust them. Mobile Ad-hoc Networks (MANET) help provide such services connecting sensors, command and control devices, drones, and weapons to warfighters and first responders. Creomagic, an Israeli MANET pioneer, has developed an autonomous, cognitive SDR and dual waveform capabilities called CreoNet. This radio communications technology provides mission-critical teams with more reliable, secure, and resilient connectivity. The latest version offers enhanced EW features, including advanced cognitive SDR and dual waveform.

    CreoNet cognitive software-defined radios (CSDR) provide fully encrypted mesh networks by continuously analyzing the electromagnetic spectrum, detecting clear channels, and identifying potential threats and interference. Then, the CreoNet radios network or network segment automatically switches to the clear channel without operator intervention, maintaining connectivity continuity and reliability across the network. The system employs machine learning to detect patterns in the frequency spectrum that indicate the presence of interference and other sources of noise and then automatically adjusts their parameters by switching to alternative frequencies, modulation techniques, or waveforms. CreoNet can simultaneously operate across two waveforms, creating two tactical bubbles – one for broadband information transmission and another providing secure and immune tactical awareness mode through low probability of detection and interference. Applications extend through personal tactical radios for special forces and first responders, as well as ground solutions for robotics, manned aerial networks, and UAVs.

    Voice is the natural form of human communication, but in combat, hearing is impaired by deafening noise. To maintain audible communications and minimize damage, soldiers rely on in-ear sound protection and radio headsets such as the gear produced by Silynx Communications. Originally developed for special forces use, the system is now used by military and law enforcement forces in 50 countries. It provides the warfighter full control of multiple radios, mobile phones, intercoms, and satellite phones, offering clear hearing of talk and radio even in the high ambient noise levels encountered on a battle scene. The system supports a bone-conducting microphone, enabling users to ‘talk through their ears.’

    Further Reading:

    Giga-PtX Project Visions Eco-friendly, Efficient and War-Ready, Synthetic Fuel Supply

    The Giga PtX project can be packed into several ISO containers and moved to any location where electricity, waret and CO2 are abundant. Photo: Defense-Update

    At Eurosatory 2024, Rheinmetall announced a new alternative fuel production concept under the Giga-PtX project, which, according to the company study, will offer an efficient, dependable diesel fuel independent of existing fossil-fuel hydrocarbon supply chain that will be able to support military consumption with more survivable and sustainable production and distribution. This groundbreaking vision ensures the armed forces a secure, war-ready fuel supply dependent on water and CO₂ precursors and grid-independent energy sources (such as wind-generated electricity). Unlike the supply chain based on fossil fuels that are prone to collapse in wartime, the Giga-PtX approach aims to establish a robust, localized synthetic fuel production network located near electrical energy generation facilities, thus enhancing combat readiness while contributing to defossilization.

    Addressing Fuel Supply Challenges

    A secure and reliable fuel supply is essential for military forces’ combat readiness. The current fossil fuel supply chains are designed for peacetime operations. At war, they are logistically complex and vulnerable to wartime disruptions, as seen in the Russo-Ukraine war.

    Traditional fossil diesel and kerosene remain the backbone of the military energy supply, with the average fuel requirement in wartime ranging from 20 to 60 liters per day per soldier. Fuel logistics are critical, as evidenced by the fact that 60% of NATO casualties in Afghanistan were related to logistics, predominantly fuel logistics.

    The Giga-PtX project seeks to mitigate these risks by investing in a distributed network of renewable energy sources and synthesizing e-fuels to supply diesel fuel to users from multiple locations. These synthetic fuels can be produced efficiently and integrated into existing logistics systems (pipelines, tank farms, tankers, etc.), providing a resilient and sustainable energy solution for military operations. Each synthesizing unit can be packed in several ISO containers that can be moved on tracks, trains or ships, each facility can be relocated quickly to compensate for combat damage or increased demand. Such facilities can also be installed on large ships, such as amphibious ships or aircraft carriers, leveraging the platform’s unlimited energy supply (nuclear reactor) to supply aircraft jet fuel or diesel for amphibious forces.

    Hydrogen is a key component in producing synthetic fuels, indispensable for military applications due to their high energy density and ease of use. Rheinmetall leverages over 20 years of experience in hydrogen technology to develop efficient and cost-effective solutions for producing, storing, transporting, and utilizing hydrogen.

    The Giga-PtX Vision

    Unlike the centralized approach of crude oil-based fuel refining, the Giga-PtX project envisions a network of decentralized synthetic fuel production plants, each with a capacity of up to 50 MW. These plants combine energy generation, hydrogen, CO₂ supply, and fuel synthesis in one location, ideally near military units or pipeline systems. Utilizing renewable energy, each plant can produce several thousand tonnes of fuel annually without requiring electrical grid expansion. Initially, CO₂ can be sourced from power plants, cement works, and biogenic sources, making direct air capture unnecessary in the short term. Relying on available energy, clean water, and CO₂ resources, production costs are expected to be lower than diesel refined from fossil fuel with the added advantage of lower carbon footprint and fuel independence.

    The decentralized nature of the Giga-PtX network makes it difficult to target and disrupt. The moderate size of the plants allows for rapid scaling and low-risk replication of tested prototypes. This strategic distribution ensures a resilient fuel supply, enhancing military forces’ operational readiness and sustainability. In partnership with Ineratec, Rheinmetall is poised to offer a scalable and replicable solution to address the armed forces’ critical fuel supply challenges. The Giga-PtX project represents a forward-looking approach to military fuel logistics, ensuring that armed forces remain operationally ready and sustainable in an increasingly volatile global landscape.

    Ineratec is known for its sustainable and ready-to-use e-fuels. These synthetic fuels, including Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), e-diesel, and e-methanol, are derived from recycled CO₂ and renewable energy. They are CO₂-neutral and miscible with conventional fuels, which means that no adjustments to engines, logistics, or infrastructure are required.

    Ineratec is building what is currently the largest production plant for sustainable e-fuel in Frankfurt am Main, making it a pioneering plant for the global use of Power-to-Liquid technology. The production plant in Industriepark Höchst, one of the largest research and production sites for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in Europe, will produce up to 2,500 tons of sustainable e-fuel per year.

    More news from Eurosatory 2024

    BAE Systems Showcases the MCWS Turret on AMPV

    BAE Systems has developed several variants of AMPV armed with different weapon systems. This is the latest configuration, equipped with Oshkosh Defense/RAFAEL 30mm Medium Caliber Weapon System (MCWS). Photo: BAE Systems.

    BAE Systems’ fourth Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) prototype is being showcased at Eurosatory this week. Configured with a common top plate, the External Mission Equipment Package (ExMEP), the prototype showcases the vehicle’s ability to integrate capabilities and equipment packages internationally.

    This AMPV prototype features Oshkosh Defense’s Medium Caliber Weapon System (MCWS), a 30mm weapon system with planned fielding to the U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. The vehicle’s ExMEP can adapt to more than 30 different turret systems and build on the vehicle’s modularity. This creates a seamless path for international customers to address various mission needs with the AMPV platform.

    “This latest prototype demonstrates the capabilities of a common top plate and the options it provides our allies and NATO partners for rapid integration of next-generation technology onto a proven vehicle,” said Bill Sheehy, AMPV program director for BAE Systems. “The adaptability of the AMPV design means we can execute new capability integration quickly and efficiently, further proving the platform’s future-proofed design.”

    BAE Systems integrated and successfully demonstrated a C-UAS prototype in November 2023 while also integrating and delivering a 120mm unmanned Turreted Mortar capability to the U.S. Army in January 2024. The AMPV NxT prototype debuted with a 30mm turret at AUSA Global Force in March 2024—all three prototypes using the common top plate.

    BAE Systems has received a $754 million contract award from the U.S. Army to continue manufacturing the AMPV Family of Vehicles (FoV), guaranteeing a second phase of full-rate production (FRP) volumes through February 2027. This follows the original $797 million FRP contract awarded in August 2023.

    The five variants currently in production provide enhanced survivability and performance over the legacy M113 FoV. The AMPV’s modular chassis and commonality have proven it to be a low-risk and cost-effective solution that rapidly delivers continued combat overmatch solutions to troops ready for the battlefield.

    The AMPV’s ExMEP can adapt to more than 30 turret systems and build on the vehicle’s modular approach, enabling the rapid integration of new mission roles into the AMPV family of vehicles. The latest prototype features Elbit America’s UT30, a 30mm unmanned turret. Photo: BAE Systems
    The AMPV CUAS prototype features the Moog Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform (RIwP) turret, common to the U.S. Army’s Mobile Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system. Photo: BAE Systems
    The AMPV Mortar Carrier variant, one of the BAE Systems, is under contract to produce five variants currently in production with the Army and is comprised of the legacy 120mm mortar system. This new AMPV Turreted Mortar prototype uses the Patria Nemo mortar. It offers a significant enhancement that would not only allow for increased capabilities and force protection but also keep Soldiers completely under the armor protection provided by the vehicle. Photo: BAE Systems

    More news from Eurosatory 2024

    TDW Expands Counter-mobility Capability with PARM NextGen

    TDW is introducing a new model of its PARM remotely operated mine offering operators greated standoff range. Photo: Defense-Update

    The directional mine PARM 1 (DM12) and its improved version (DM22) is a German off-route mine that consists of a high-explosive anti-tank warhead with a diameter of 128mm coupled with a fin-stabilized rocket. It is capable of penetrating up to 600mm of armor. This enables the weapon to hit targets at ranges up to 40 meters. PARM is activated by a Passive Infra-Red (PIR) sensor triggered by the target vehicles moving on the road. Using a HEAT charge aimed at the low section, road wheels or suspension, the weapon causes mobility kill rather than catastrophic explosion. Mobility kill disables the use of the vehicle for an extended time. The mine can be laid passive and armed just as enemy vehicles are nearby. 

    The operator is located remotely and controls the weapon via a fiber-optic data link. It is a remotely operated weapon for ambushes at vantage points dominating roads and areas where the enemy is expected to move. Developed in the 1980s, the weapon was not widely used. About 2,600 such weapons were delivered by Germany and successfully used by the Ukrainian Army.

    In 2023, the German MOD ordered replacement weapons and signed a contract for 12,000 weapons, of which 2,000 will be delivered in the first batches, and others will be procured under follow-on options. For these batches, the company intends to introduce an improved weaon fitted with an RF datalink, which enables remote control over a longer distance (4 km). The remote control is used to arm or disarm the mine, enabling friendly forces to move along roads that are covered by PARM weapons.

    The new RF link enables operators to control up to three PARM weapons from a distance of 4,000 meters. Photo: Defense-Update

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    RENK Unveils ATREX Hybrid Transmission System

    A propulsion system comprising the ATREX hybrid transmission system showing the diesel engine, electrical motors, recuperator and batteries. Image: RENK

    At Eurosatory 2024, RENK Group AG introduced its new ATREX transmission system, a groundbreaking hybrid solution for main battle tanks. Designed to meet the evolving needs of modern land forces, ATREX addresses critical areas such as fuel efficiency, digitalization, and autonomous driving capabilities.

    The ATREX system, short for “Advanced Transmission Electric Cross Drive with Drive-by-Wire,” represents a significant advancement in drivetrain technology for military tracked vehicles. Combining traditional transmission technology with innovative new developments, ATREX offers a combined output of 1400 to 1500 kW, with up to 350 kW provided by electric drives. It is designed to power combat vehicles at a combat loaded weight of up to 70 tons and accelerate vehicles to a speed of 70 kph. At Eurosatory 2024, RENK is also showcasing its Next Generation Mobility System, featuring an ATREX propulsion system configured for a future battle tank. This exhibit demonstrates the integration of ATREX with components like InArm suspension, Track Tensioner, Active Damping Ride Height Control, and Drive-by-Wire systems, highlighting the potential for comprehensive, future-ready mobility solutions in military applications.

    One of the core innovations of ATREX is its electro-mechanical steering system, which doubles as an electrical propulsion system and a power generator. This feature supports fuel efficiency by allowing the use of the electric drive for short distances, reducing the reliance on the diesel engine, thereby saving fuel and extending the vehicle’s operational range. The system’s advanced recuperation capability recharges the battery during braking, further enhancing efficiency and reducing maintenance needs.

    The ATREX transmission is matched with electrical steering and braking modules providing for powerful vehicle maneuvering. Render: RENK
    A rendering of the new ATREX propulsion system. Image: RENK
    A thermal signature simulation of a main battle tank on a silent watch using hybrid propulsion with ATREX four-level transmission, braking, and steering. Source: RENK

    The ATREX system also introduces new operational capabilities such as Silent Watch, Manoeuvring, and Sprint Boost. These functions enable low-noise and low-heat signature missions, enhancing passive protection and providing tactical advantages. In critical situations, the boost function allows for rapid vehicle movement using electrical energy, with the diesel engine engaging simultaneously for additional power.

    With digital networking capabilities integrated into the drivetrain and other vehicle components, ATREX is equipped with Drive-by-Wire technology, paving the way for autonomous driving. This technology supports flexible driver stations and assistance systems, ensuring vehicles are mission-ready with enhanced control and responsiveness. Furthermore, ATREX’s design allows for scalability in size and weight, making it adaptable to specific customer requirements. The placement of electric motors on the exterior of the propulsion system facilitates easy modifications to the installed electrical power, providing tailored solutions for diverse operational needs.

    The introduction of ATREX by RENK signifies a forward-thinking approach to armored mobility. It blends traditional reliability with modern innovations to meet the complex demands of contemporary and future military operations.

    NAVWAR Deployment at War

    The conflict in Ukraine has served as a real-world laboratory for NAVWAR tactics and technologies. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces extensively deployed a variety of jammers and spoofers, demonstrating the critical role of electronic warfare in modern conflict.

    Overall, the performance of US-delivered GPS-guided weaponry, such as the Excalibur 155mm artillery rounds, M31 Guided MLRS rockets, and JDAM GPS-guided bombs, has been degraded since their initial successful introduction by the Ukrainian forces. Apparently, the Russians gradually developed EW countermeasures against those threats. Due to operational security considerations, the absence of countermeasures, such as the SAASM anti-spoofing and M-Code anti-jam support for these weapons, may have degraded their resilience, facing an extensive and sophisticated Russian EW. Other weapon systems, such as the Storm Shadow and SCALP cruise missiles, fared better over time as they rely on multiple navigation means and have fared better in prolonged combat.

    By mid-2023, Russian Volnorez C-UAS systems were installed on tanks but didn’t provide much protection.

    During the 2023 summer counteroffensive, Ukraine used tens of thousands of small drones to strike Russian positions and vehicles, many of which failed to launch due to the extensive jamming employed by the Russians. This required the Ukrainians to disable many GNSS-based automation and degrade their drones to rely on visual navigation and control, which is also vulnerable to jamming and comm-loss. Such systems have impacted military operations and civilian sectors, underscoring the dual-use dilemma inherent in NAVWAR.

    Both sides currently use Counter-drone and GNSS jammers in the Russo-Ukraine conflict. Some Russian armored vehicles employ the Volnorez EW system, using two emitters positioned in the front of the turret; the system covers 360 degrees and is designed to engage FPV attack drones. The system covers a range of 900 to 2000 MHz and disrupts drone signals at distances exceeding 600 meters. However, based on captured systems studies, Volnorez’s lack of continuous coverage may compromise its combat effectiveness. Other applications employ GNSS commercial jammers like the Saniya EW system, which is effective at a distance of 1,000 meters. The system can detect drones at 1,500 m’ distance and be used against attack and recce drones. The Ukrainian side also uses EW systems to defend its combat vehicles. The Piranha AVD360 creates a protective ‘electronic dome’ blocking communications and navigation signals to reach the attacking drone within 600 meters of the protected vehicle.

    To address these countermeasures and enable the FPV drones to maintain combat effectiveness, more sophisticated navigation and targeting systems are employed; these include applying machine vision to enable drones to take control and pursue the attack, relying on autonomous image recognition via the camera when there is datalink loss.

    Ukrainian EW system Piranha AVD360

    GNSS Spoofers Protecting High-End Targets

    Sophisticated spoofers take NAVWAR to a higher level of complexity and deception. Unlike jammers, spoofers emit signals that mimic GNSS signals, misleading receivers with false positioning or timing data.

    Spoofing was considered rare until recently. It is not always possible to distinguish jamming from spoofing or to determine who is behind the interference. The worst-affected regions include the aerial space above the Black Sea area from Turkey to Azerbaijan, the Mediterranean Sea extending from Cyprus to Libya, the Baltic Sea near Poland and Latvia, and the Arctic near Finland and Norway. Israel alerted pilots in mid-October it had restricted GPS in the region and warned pilots not to rely on satellite navigation systems for landing. The GNSS interference has been felt up to 190 miles away from battle zones and “appears to go well beyond simple military mission effectiveness,” according to Eurocontrol, Europe’s primary air traffic control manager.

    Spoofing causes more problems for GNSS users. In some attacks, a spoofer disguises its transmissions as a true satellite by recording a genuine satellite signal and rebroadcasting it with amplification or a delay to disguise it as an authentic signal, thus deceiving the receiver into plotting a bogus location.

    The Ring, developed by Regulus Cyber, represents a cutting-edge spoofing approach capable of generating highly convincing false GNSS signals to mislead sophisticated GNSS receivers. Ring targets the platform’s basic navigation subsystem commands set by feeding it with false satellite data that triggers a reaction in a certain way, such as fend off, stop and hover, or descend abruptly and crash. Unlike large, strategic spoofing systems, Ring was designed as a tactical system; at a weight of 6.5 kg, it can be installed on a vessel, armored vehicle, artillery piece, or air defense system, fed by the vehicle’s power or battery powered, carried in a backpack for dismounted operation. The system creates a defensive hemispheric shield around the protected platform that ‘fends off’ drones and other threats employing GNSS navigation systems. This hemispheric ‘bubble’ is effective against drones and other threats that rely on GNSS for navigation. According to the developers, the system can mitigate all such threats, regardless of their operating and guidance system, protocols, and countermeasures.

    Back to the Introduction to NAVWAR

    NAVWAR Jammers

    R-330Zh Zhitel automated satellite communication/navigation ECM system is widely used by the Russian Army in the Ukraine front to jam GNSS.

    Low-cost jammers are widely accessible and offer a basic but effective means of disrupting GNSS signals. Drivers who want to prevent their bosses from constantly tracking delivery trucks use such devices. They emit radio frequency (RF) noise or signals on the same frequencies used by GNSS satellites, overwhelming the receiver’s ability to discern the legitimate satellite signal. Their affordability and simplicity make them a common choice for non-state actors and less technologically advanced militaries.

    In a counter-UAS role, GPS denial often uses broadband jamming and datalink disruption as part of a comprehensive EW capability. The Australia-based DroneShield company, one of the pioneers in this field, has recently announced the introduction of GNSS disruption targeted to a specific area.

    Military users often opt for dedicated EW assets to engage radio-electronic signals at the GNSS frequencies (lower and upper L bands). Some systems employ signal generators to defeat specific threats, such as drones and GPS-guided weapons, while others disrupt GNSS signals, creating a ‘defensive bubble’ around important assets and targets, thus reducing the probability of successful attack by guided weapons. Some of these systems are mounted on vehicles, enabling the relocation of assets, while others are fixed in specific positions. A typical relocatable system that blocks GNSS signals at longer distances is the Russian R30Zh Zhitel, which can jam satellite and cellular phone communications from 100 MHz to 2,000 MHz frequency bands, covering all GNSS frequencies. Zhitel has an effective radius of 25 km against cellular phones and longer against GNSS.

    GNSS Spectrum Frequency Bands

    Denial of GNSS signals over a wide area requires a more powerful or distributed array of emitters. Two Russian systems are known to be capable of delivering GNSS jamming over a large area. The Pole 21E system consists of jammers placed on cell towers. Multiple elements of this type can be integrated into a jammer network, denying GNSS signal over large areas. The system uses the communications mast’s power and GSM communications as a backup. The Ukrainians have repeatedly attacked cell towers along the front lines to destroy such systems and open the sky for drone activity.

    Pole-21E electronic countermeasures (ECM) system designed to protect strategic assets and infrastructure against pinpoint strikes by PGMs. They are capable of jamming navigation equipment of precision-guided weapons and preventing the guidance of its submunitions in the designated area

    Another powerful Russian counter-GNSS effort is the 14Ts227 Tobol, a system designed to disrupt GNSS signals over a large area, thus denying navigation signals from attack drones and cruise missiles. Ten such systems are employed across Russian territory, one of which is in Kaliningrad. These powerful systems suppress GPS coverage in the Baltic, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. While the Tobol was reportedly the cause of GNSS disruptions across Europe, the Ukrainians repeatedly conducted precision drone attacks inside Russia, demonstrating their ability to operate in GNSS-contested airspace.

    In 2021, the Turkish defense industry organization and Meteksan teamed to develop the Seymen, a sophisticated, mobile NAVWAR EW system unveiled as a scaled model at the IDEF exhibition. The system will enable selective jamming and deception of GNSS signals affecting targeted systems while enabling friendly forces to operate without signal degradation. The system can engage multiple targets in different directions and across several GNSS constellations. Seymen can operate independently or in coordination with multiple emitters as part of a system.

    A model of the Meteksan Seymen GNSS jamming system. Note the multiple directional mast-mounted transmit modules. Photo: Defense-Update

    The key for operating systems such as Symen is using active electronic steered antennae (AESA) for a more discrete approach. An example of such a system is SRC’s steerable electronic attack phases array (SEAPA), a prototype system that employs precision electronic targeting and engagement for congested environments. SEAPA covers the L band and the entire GNSS frequency band and can deliver surgical PNT disruption for air and missile defense, counter UAS, and critical infrastructure defense. This RF solution can precisely target and disrupt hostile systems while ensuring friendly systems’ safety and continued operation in the same airspace and across the electromagnetic spectrum. SEAPA uses configurable beamforming to steer the electronic jamming beams in azimuth and elevation, allowing the system to track targets in flight. Beams can be narrowed to 20 deg for precision effects or widened to 60 deg to engage swarms. Using variable power beams, it can simultaneously engage targets at both short and long-range. Unlike omnidirectional systems, SEAPA provides advanced NAVWAR capabilities while minimizing unintended impact on non-targeted systems.

    The Silent Cyclone (backpack on the left) and Silent (two units can be carried inside a cargo artillery shell) are on the right. Both are part of the US Army EW portfolio designed for the tactical level. Photo: Defense-Update,

    A different selective GNSS denial can be employed tactically, localized using drone-based effectors or artillery-deployed jammers, enabling forces to project electronic warfare capabilities deep into enemy territory. Two examples from SRC are the Silent Cyclone from SRC, a backpacked EW system, and the Silent Impact, a puck-like device packable into 155mm artillery rounds and fired at the enemy’s rear area. These systems can deliver cyber electromagnetic attack (CEMA) payloads in flight, using parachutes to stay aloft for an extended period. The jammers are built to survive the ground impact and continue their jamming on the ground.

    This deployment method allows for targeted jamming in specific areas near headquarters, forward landing strips, or choke points where no navigation could cause many disruptions. Using low-power localized effects can potentially blind and disorient enemy forces without widespread disruption that might affect friendly forces.

    Back to the Introduction to NAVWAR

    Defensive NAVWAR

    Pole-21E electronic countermeasures (ECM) system designed to protect strategic assets and infrastructure against pinpoint strikes by PGMs. They are capable to jam navigation equipment of precision guided weapons and prevent the guidance of its submunitions in the designated area

    By using countermeasures against NAVWAR threats, Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (APNT) is achieved. These countermeasures are as varied and sophisticated as the offensive capabilities they aim to neutralize. Nations and corporations worldwide have invested in technologies designed to detect, mitigate, and adapt to GNSS disruption and spoofing. Signal-behavior monitoring represents an important method of assessing the integrity of PNT systems at the system or unit level. By observing PNT signals for behavior such as dropouts, discontinuities, unusual signal fluctuations, data bit changes, or other anomalies, this technique can detect a potential failure or false manipulation of the source, indicate the system to revert to a ‘safe mode’, use of countermeasures, or act against the perpetrator.

    A common combination provides navigation resilience using an inertial measurement unit (IMU) with a GNSS receiver. By correlating the GNSS position with the IMU data, the navigation system compares the position intervals reported by the GNSS subsystem with the relative position determined by directional accelerations and time measured by the IMU relative to the previous GNSS interval. Trusted timing standards are also part of such combined sensor systems, assessing the integrity of PNT signals. By correlating the information provided by the different sensors and an integral atomic clock, all the sensors must agree on the location and timing solution. If one sensor disagrees with the others, that sensor may be considered suspect, either for failure or compromise.

    While this method is immune to external interference, it is susceptible to position measurement inaccuracies (also known as ‘drift’) proportional to the distance and time traveled. Adding Artificial Intelligence sensor fusion to the system enhances the system’s processing capabilities, primarily in an environment where satellite signals are obstructed or challenged, such as indoors or in urban areas. GPS/INS systems are common in most aviation and naval systems and are also being introduced in military land systems. However, due to the IMU cost and complexity, they are used mainly in high-value systems such as air defense, artillery, and recce units.

    An anti-jam antenna unit is another method of PNT resilience. Anti-jam solutions use smart technologies such as controlled radiation pattern antennas to focus on satellite signals while attenuating the signal received from ground-based jammers.

    A typical system of this class is the ADA GNSS Anti-Jamming system from IAI. ADA protects aircraft, drones, surface vehicles, or ships from GNSS disruption. It uses a multichannel antenna that filters out signals coming from undesirable directions. The technology can also detect and mitigate spoofing attacks, ensuring the integrity of GNSS signals. IAI offers ADA in several versions, including a lightweight system optimized for use on missiles, drones, and loitering weapons and the Compact ADA unveiled earlier this year.

    Other systems developed by Elbit Systems’ Rokar unit are JaGuard and GUR. These systems use up to four antennae elements to perform null steering techniques and processing units to perform complex anti-jam and GNSS calculations simultaneously. The system is optimized for efficient multipath mitigation in urban or naval environments. JaGuard can be mounted on the platform, while GUR is designed for integration at the subsystem or embedded solution level.

    Novatel GAJT GPS-AJ system. Image: Novatel

    The Canadian NovaTel is offering advanced anti-jamming antennas. These systems employ enhanced GNSS tracking performance, new direction-finding capabilities, improved electronic situational awareness, and a new silent mode feature that reduces its thermal signature. The system’s receiver employs algorithms that use various detection metrics at multiple stages within the signal processing to provide a robust overall spoofing detection alert. While the receiver may be spoofed, the resulting falsified position, navigation, and timing (PNT) measurements won’t fool the user. Because of the alert, users have increased situational awareness of when their receiver’s measurements may be untrustworthy.

    While ADA, JaGuard, and GUR are designed specifically for the military user, other GNSS-AJ solutions have been optimized as dual-use systems. Infinidome, a pioneer in GNSS protection, has developed the GPS Dome, a cost-effective and compact system designed to shield commercial and military assets from jamming.

    Infinidome, an Israeli GPS protection specialist company, has introduced GPSDome, which uses two antennae to perform passive ‘null steering’ by attenuating the reception from the direction of the most powerful signal (the jammer). The company developed a proprietary filter to isolate this signal and implemented it into an integrated circuit.

    GPSDome2 from Infinidome provides GNSS protection of two bands (L1/E1+L2 or L1 + G1 or L1/E1 + L5) from up to three directions of jamming simultaneously, all in a small box. Photo: Infinidome

    The latest generation, GPSDome2, is a software-defined GNSS-AJ solution that offers a wider frequency range, higher efficiency, and the ability to simultaneously deal with multiple jammers from three directions. GPSDome2 is packed in a small package weighing only 500 gr. That can be installed as a retrofit or in new systems. Under a collaboration with Honeywell, the system has been integrated into Honeywell’s Resilient Navigation System, introduced in 2022 as an aviation-certified navigation system designed to overcome GNSS vulnerabilities. A similar system is under development in South Korea in cooperation with Hanwha, which has also invested in the company. Both are positioned to provide these navigation capabilities for the Autonomous Air Mobility systems. (AAM).

    Another method the US military uses to foil spoofing is the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) GPS signal, employing encryption to discriminate between true and false signals. GPS satellites transmit signals with encrypted code, and SAASM-protected receivers have decryption keys that authenticate the signal. Military receivers deployed after 2006 were required to use SAASM. These techniques are not available to commercial users and require special authorization by the US Government. Therefore, not all military GNSS receivers use encrypted signals, and those that do not may be vulnerable to spoofing. The European Union (EU) Galileo system also supports encrypted signal techniques through the Public Regulated Service (PRS) reserved for EU government users.

    BAE System’s NavStrike-M is designed for precision-guided missiles and rockets like the GMLRS. It provides 24-channel all-in-
    View navigation, high jamming immunity,
    fast direct acquisitions using either P(Y)
    or M-Code and rapid cold starts with
    no initialization data is required. Image: BAE Systems

    While SAASM is available only to the US government and authorized users, other APNT applications employ software-based GNSS protection to detect spoofing attacks. The Pyramid system, developed by Regulus Cyber, detects, alerts, and reports the presence of GNSS spoofing signals, enabling the user to employ alternative navigation or correction measures to protect the navigation system and the platform. The system uses software updates to keep up with the latest attack methods.

    Since 2018, when the first 3rd generation GPS satellite was deployed, a new encrypted M-Code has been used in the L1 and L2 GPS bands, supporting U.S. military operations. M-Code is designed to improve resistance to GPS threats such as jamming and spoofing. M-Code receivers use a higher-power signal to resist jamming interference and encryption, among other security features, to thwart spoofing attacks. M-Code support has been mandatory for all new military GPS receivers since 2017. Some forces of European Union members are also starting to get access to M-Code.

    Back to the Introduction to NAVWAR

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