Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tamir Eshel

1135 POSTS 21 COMMENTS

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Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are conducting extensive testing toward the program's main milestone - declaring Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VFMA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma - the first Marine Corps F-35 unit 'operational ready' by the end of July 2015. Although only the USMC unit flying F-35B is due for this clearance, some of the testings are done on the Air Force's F-35A and Navy F-35Cs, since many of elements of the different variants, particularly the software versions - are identical. This procedure was recently highlighted by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) in his annual report.

Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are conducting extensive testing toward the program’s main milestone – declaring Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma – the first Marine Corps F-35 unit ‘operational ready’ by the end of July 2015. Part of the tests are demonstrating how the ‘Lightning II’ can communicate with other aircraft, including coalition fighters, as well as with ground forces, using Link 16 and combat networks using legacy SINCGARS radios.

The effort is shared by elements training, testing and supporting the aircraft and its equipment, with the Marine Corps, Air Force and navy. Although only the USMC unit flying F-35B is due for this clearance, some of the testings are done on the Air Force’s F-35A and Navy F-35Cs, since many of elements of the different variants, particularly the software versions – are identical.

This procedure was recently highlighted by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) in his annual report. “Rather than carrying out a full Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE), JPO is conducting ‘limited assessments’ of Block 2B capability, using F-35A operational test aircraft at Edwards AFB, California. Adhering to OUE testing with F-35B with Block 2B capability would have delayed the start of the evaluation into late 2016. This in turn threatened to delay the development of Block 3F software.

Developmental testing of the Block 2B software is expected to be complete in february 2015, earlier than the DOT&E predicted in its 2013 report (May to November 2015). Moreover, the consolidation of test points from earlier blocks into 2B testing has accelerated the process, eliminating 840 test points, equivalent to four months of testing.

The review highlight concern about the ability of the aircraft to identify hostile radars, creating ‘significant operational risk to fielded unit’ the report stated that the necessary software updates will not be available until November 2015. Other concerns are with the aircraft unique ‘Distributed Aperture System’ (DAS), providing the pilot a panoramic view of the aircraft surroundings and automatic threat warning and identification. The report said DAS still “exhibit high false-alarm rates and false target tracks, and poor stability performance, even in later versions of software.”

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma - is expected to be the first Marine Corps F-35 unit declared 'operationally ready' by the end of July 2015. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma – is expected to be the first Marine Corps F-35 unit declared ‘operationally ready’ by the end of July 2015. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

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Seven of 11 teams competing in the Darpa Robotic Challenge (DRC) in June 2015 will use the new, more powerful, and wirelessly controlled Atlas humanoid robot. The competition that evaluates the use of robots in disaster zone offers $3.5 million in prizes awarded to the best performing teams

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Teams are likely to keep their robots connected to fall arrestors during much of the remaining months of training as a safeguard against premature damage to the robot. DARPA demonstrated the new Atlas with a fall arrestor in place. “Risk mitigation is part of the game,” Pratt said. “It’s up to the teams to decide what chances they’re willing to take during training and risk falls and damage, but come the DRC Finals, the cords are cut.” Photo: DARPA

The Atlas humanoid robot will operate under wireless control for the first time at the final event of the DARPA Robotic Challenge (DRC), which will be held June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California. DARPA announced yesterday that robots performing at this final phase will have to operate completely free – without power cords, fall arrestors or wired communications tethers. DARPA informed teams they will have to communicate with their robots over a secure wireless network.

Being free doesn’t mean the mission will be easier. As the operating environment at the DRC is designed to mimic a disaster area, robots may encounter unexpected obstacles, debris and unstable surface as well as interference to wireless links. “DARPA will intentionally degrade communications between the robots and human operators working at a distance.” the communique said, “The idea is to replicate the conditions these robots would face going into a disaster zone. Spotty communication will force the robots to make some progress on their own during communications blackouts.”

Movement would also be susceptible to disruption and lack of fall arresting cable means robots may have to recover, without any external intervention. “Teams are not allowed any physical intervention with their robot after it begins a run.” DARPA said, “If a robot falls or gets stuck, it will have to recover and continue with the tasks without any hands-on assistance. If a robot cannot sustain and recover from a fall, its run will end.”

The teams using the DARPA-developed Atlas robot got their first look at the newly upgraded system during a technical shakeout the week of January 12th in Waltham, Mass. The upgraded Atlas is 75 percent new — only the lower legs and feet were carried over from the original design. Lighter materials allowed for inclusion of a battery and a new pump system with only a modest increase in overall weight; the upgraded robot is 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and weighs 345 pounds (156.5 kilograms).

Teams are likely to keep their robots connected to fall arrestors during much of the remaining months of training as a safeguard against premature damage to the robot. DARPA demonstrated the new Atlas with a fall arrestor in place. “Risk mitigation is part of the game,” Pratt said. “It’s up to the teams to decide what chances they’re willing to take during training and risk falls and damage, but come the DRC Finals, the cords are cut.”

The most significant changes are to the robot’s power supply and pump. Atlas will now carry an onboard 3.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, with the potential for one hour of “mixed mission” operation that includes walking, standing, use of tools, and other movements. This will drive a new variable-pressure pump that allows for more efficient operation.

“The introduction of a battery and variable-pressure pump into Atlas poses a strategic challenge for teams,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “The operator will be able to run the robot on a mid-pressure setting for most operations to save power, and then apply bursts of maximum pressure when additional force is needed. The teams are going to have to game out the right balance of force and battery life to complete the course.”

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The Atlas robot was redesigned with the goal of improving power efficiency to better support battery operation. Approximately 75 percent of the robot was rebuilt; only the lower legs and feet were carried over from the original design. Photo: DARPA

Other major upgrades to Atlas focused on increasing efficiency, dexterity, and resilience, and include:

  • Repositioned shoulders and arms allow for increased workspace in front of the robot and let the robot view its hands in motion, thus providing additional sensor feedback to the operator.
  • New electrically actuated lower arms will increase strength and dexterity and improve force sensing.
  • The addition of an extra degree of freedom in the wrist means the robot will be able to turn a door handle simply by rotating its wrist as opposed to moving its entire arm.
  • Three onboard perception computers are used for perception and task planning, and a wireless router in the head enables untethered communication.
  • Re-sized actuators in the hip, knee, and back give the robot greater strength.
  • A wireless emergency stop allows for safe operation.
  • As a result of the new pump, Atlas is much, much quieter than before!

Seven of the 11 teams competing in the DRC will be using the new ‘Atlas Unplugged’, The teams are scheduled to receive their upgraded robots by the end of this month (January 2015). The robots will be delivered with a “battery emulator,” a training tool temporarily mounted in the robot that simulates how the real battery will perform. This will allow them to switch modes between constant voltage for routine practice and metered voltage to simulate actual battery life.

Given their identical hardware, the Atlas teams will have to differentiate themselves through software, control interfaces, and competition strategy. Teams will have a few options on the selection of tasks they choose to attempt and the order they do them—and must manage time and battery life during their runs—but DARPA expects that the top-placing teams will complete all of the tasks.

“During periodic reviews with the DRC teams we’re already seeing them perform at a much higher level than they were last year. We’re excited to see how much further they can push the technology,” said Pratt. “As any team will tell you, we’re not making it easy. DARPA has been consulting with our international partners to decide on what steps we need to take to speed the development of disaster-response robots, and the DRC Finals will reflect those realities.”

The competing teams have been operating under extreme pressure since the 2013 DRC Trials, working to upgrade their robots and software for the more demanding DRC Finals. In June 2014, DARPA announced a series of additional hurdles that teams will face in the Finals.

A total of $3.5 million in prizes will now be awarded to the top three finishers in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), the final event of which will be held June 5-6, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. The new prize structure was created in recognition of both the significant progress already demonstrated by teams toward development of human-supervised robot technology for disaster response and the increased number of teams planning to compete in the Finals, including those funded by the European Union and the governments of Japan and South Korea. Aside from the previously announced $2 million grand prize, DARPA plans to award $1 million to the runner-up and $500,000 to the third-place team. DARPA expects at least twenty teams to compete in the DRC Finals.

New teams interested in competing in the DRC have until February 2, 2015, to register and submit qualification materials. DARPA will announce the roster of qualified teams in early March.

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In recent years IWI US has introduced the combat proven Tavor SAR in the US market, in 2015 the company is introducing more compact weapons, including the Galil ACE pistol and two variants of the Uzi Pro Pistol.

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The Tavor family was developed in close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), based on lessons learned from actual combat. Tavor is the standard issue small caliber weapon for the IDF and Micro Tavor (also known as X-95) is a weapon of choice for elite infantry elite units. It is seen here with the Mepro 21 sight. Photo: IDF

In recent years IWI US has introduced the combat proven Tavor SAR in the US market, where the weapon has created much interest both in the law enforcement community and among weapon enthusiasts. By March 2014 the company announced it had shipped the 20,000th Tavor SAR sold in the US.

The company positions its Tavor SAR as the weapon of choice for use as close quarter patrol rifle, since this compact weapon allows officers to operate and easily control the rifle with one hand, if the officer is signaling, using additional tools or controlling his K-9.

Built on the 18” (457.2mm) barrel model, fitted with a non-removable 2” muzzle break, the weapon has an overall length (OAL) of 30” (762mm). Tavor SAR is built for .223”/5.56mm NATO ammunition and is supplied with a 10-round magazine.

The flattop weapon incorporates a full length MIL-STD Picatinny top rail, in addition to the standard short rail, mounted at a 45° angle opposite the charging handle. Backup Iron Sights (BUIS) are embedded and spring loaded in the top of the Picatinny rail, and the front post contains a Tritium insert on a standard AR thread, fully adjustable for windage and elevation.

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IWI offers a compact version with 16.5″ barrel and fitted with an integral MEPRO-21 reflex sight (standard issue for the IDF). Photo: IWI US

The Tavor family was developed in close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), based on lessons learned from actual combat. It has been proven in combat service by the IDF Infantry and Special Forces, as well as in other countries throughout the world.

The company also offers a compact version with 16.5″ barrel and fitted with an integral MEPRO-21 reflex sight (standard issue for the IDF). The standard caliber is 5.56 NATO (.223REM), with conversion kits available in 9mm Luger Parabellum and 5.45X39mm.

Adapting the weapon for the US market, IWI has introduced several changes. The body, offered in black or flat dark earth colors, is crafted from high-strength polymer. The weapon comes with removable 18” or 16.5” chrome-lined barrels with 1:7 twist.

To expand its US sales nationwide, IWI US introduced several ‘Restricted States’ models (RS) to meet local restrictions imposed by several states, including California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. For example, the weapon sold in California comes with 16.5” barrel, and 4” removable muzzle brake, while types sold in MD, MA and NJ use the standard 18” barrel with shorter, non removable, welded muzzle break. All versions support an AOL of 30”, and the standard 10 round magazines. They also do not have the bayonet lug available on standard models.

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IWI Galil ACE pistol, available in the 7.62x39mm caliber with an 8.3” barrel at an overall length of 18″. Photo: IWI

ACE GALIL PISTOL

Another compact weapon offered by IWI in the USA is the Galil ACE pistol, available in 7.62x39mm caliber with an 8.3” barrel at an overall length of 18″. The weapon accepts standard AK-style magazines.

Galil ACE pistol has a two-piece Picatinny rail with adjustable front and rear sights, with Tritium post on the front site. The Tri-Rail forearm system features removable covers, including a protected pressure switch area.

A feature of the Galil ACE is the new location of the charging handle. It has been moved to the left side, enabling the user to maintain control over the pistol while charging and also allows for faster target reacquisition. The safety selector is available on either the right or the left sides.

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Utilizing customized assembly originally designed for large frame pistol control and stabilization, the Uzi Pro SB can be fired with or without the brace extended, depending on the shooters need. With the brace in the folded position, storage space required for the weapon is minimized. Photo: IWI US

UZI PRO PISTOL

At Shot Show 2015, IWI US is introducing the Uzi Pro Pistol SB – the latest evolution of the legendary UZI sub-machine gun developed by Uziel Gal in Israel in the early 1950s.

Two versions of the Uzi Pro Pistol will be available in the US – the basic pistol and Uzi Pro SB, fitted with a side-folding stabilizing brace. Utilizing customized assembly originally designed for large-frame pistol control and stabilization, the Uzi Pro SB can be fired with or without the brace extended, depending on the shooters need. With the brace in the folded position, storage space required for the weapon is minimized.

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The new Uzi Pro and Uzi Pro SB feature three safety mechanisms: a conventional manual thumb safety, a firing pin block and a proven grip safety that must be fully depressed before the gun can be cocked and fired. Photo: IWI US.

The new Uzi Pro and Uzi Pro SB feature three safety mechanisms: a conventional, manual thumb safety, a firing pin block, and a proven grip safety that must be fully depressed before the gun can be cocked and fired.

This 9mm Luger Parabellum version available in the US market uses an advanced polymer pistol grip that reduces weight and incorporates an integrated magazine release button for fast and easy magazine changes. The cocking handle is located on the receiver side, allowing for a full-length Picatinny rail on the top receiver cover. A short Picatinny rail is also incorporated into the polymer body, mounted below the barrel, for additional accessory placement. Each Uzi Pro Pistol. comes with one 20-round and one 25-round magazine.

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The Tavor Assault Rifle can be equipped with 40mm grenade launcher (GTAR-21). The weapon has an 18″ barrel, it is fitted with an underbarrel grenade launcher and associated sights (Mepro 21 and MOR). Various types of launchers can be used, including one developed by IWI. Photo: IDF

 

After 32 years of frustrating development, Hindustan Aeronautics yesterday delivered the initial, semi-operational, Tejas – the first modern, light combat aircraft designed and built (almost) entirely in India.

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Two of the 15 pre-production Tejas jet fighters produced by HAL and used for test and evaluation. The LCA made its maiden flight on January 4, 2001. Photo: ADA

The Indian Air Force (IAF) today received the first indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and built by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The LCA, also named ‘Tejas’, was handed over today by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar to the Indian Air Force Chief Air Marshal, Arup Raha, in Bangalore. Parrikar congratulated all parties involved in the program for their achievement and called upon them to ‘think out of the box’ to meet the schedule and challenges by applying the right management tools. “Work culture should modify by adapting better technology and tools to achieve better results” Parrikar urged his audience.

LCA LSP-5 (KH2015) that flew its first flight on – 19 November 2010 represented the IOC standard. The aircraft was fitted with all sensors, including night lighting in the cockpit, and an auto-pilot. Photo: ADA
LCA LSP-5 (KH2015) that flew its first flight on – 19 November 2010 represented the IOC standard. The aircraft was fitted with all sensors, including night lighting in the cockpit, and an auto-pilot. Photo: ADA

LCA-SP1, the first aircraft handed over to the air force, rolled off the HAL assembly line in September and, since then, has been inspected to Initial Operational Clearance II, attesting its airworthiness for operational missions. Previous Tejas fighters delivered to the IAF since 2011 have been used primarily for training, as they were qualified only under ‘IOC-I’ rating. Full operational clearance of the LCA is expected by the end of 2015.

Initially HAL will produce only six aircraft per year, the goal is to build 20 aircraft by 2018 to equip Bangalore based No. 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) – the first IAF squadron to fly the Tejas. Production will slowly ramp up to 16 aircraft per year. Overall the IAF plans to deploy 10-14 squadrons, each equipped with 21 Tejas.

As part of the extensive testing, LCA performed, more than 2,800 sorties from different locations across India, from the highest, operational airfield at Leh in the Himalayah, testing cold, winter operations, to desert conditions tested in Jaisalmer, Jamnagar, Uttaralai Gwalior, Pathankot and Goa. The aircraft performed extensive weapon delivery testing, launching air/air missiles and dropping standard and guided bombs using laser designation provided by Litening pods.

32 Years of Development

Meeting deadlines has not been the strong side of the LCA program. Launched in 1983 to replace India’s Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jets, the LCA took 32 years to mature to this stage – an extremely long process, even by Indian standards. Most of the MiGs it was supposed to replace have already been phased out; about a hundred that still remain in service are to be retired by 2017. With the French Rafale contract signing nowhere in sight, and LCA gearing up slowly to deliver only a single squadron in two years, the IAF will have to deactivate 10 squadrons by 2017, against a force structure requirement of 42 squadrons originally planned.

The navalized LCA made the first take off of from a land-based simulated ski jump carrier deck in December 2014. Photo: ADA
The navalized LCA made the first take off of from a land-based simulated ski jump carrier deck in December 2014. Photo: ADA

Development costs have been high – an amount equivalent to US$2.75 billion (17,000 crore) has been spent to date on the development and manufacturing of 15 prototype and pre-production aircraft. The IAF plans to operate 200 single-seat fighters and 20 twin-seat trainers, while the Indian Navy expects to field 40 naval variants of the aircraft, designed to operate from aircraft carriers equipped with ski-jump decks.

As production gears up, the Tejas is expected to begin to produce a return on investment – the unit cost of the aircraft is expected to be between $27 and $32 million (170-200 Crore), which is less than half the cost of an Indian-built Su-30MKI and significantly lower than other, fully equipped western alternatives, such as the Gripen and F-16. However, the Tejas will be more expensive than the less=equipped Chinese or Korean fighters, such as the JF-17 and F/A-50.



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Among the causes for the lengthy development cycle was the Indian insistence on the local development of technology and manufacturing capabilities. As opposed to the Chinese developers which relied on spying and the reverse engineering of foreign designs, the Indian scientists and engineers did it all by themselves. As the program dragged along, and certain foreign technologies nevertheless still had to be used, the Indians obtained them with permission and through dialogue. They should be commended for their persistence and dedication in achieving their goals without the dubious Chinese methods.

Indian Made, but Not totally indigenous

Although India presents the LCA as an indigenous aircraft, even HAL admits it is not fully domestic, as its engine, some of the avionics, and some of the weapon systems are foreign. In fact, only 60 percent of the aircraft is ‘indigenous’. When the program began the intention was to make the LCA fully indigenous. This would have required Indian industry to master new production techniques and to develop an indigenous engine, as well as indigenous electronic, electro-optical and electro-mechanical systems, and software systems, including flight controls and mission management systems.

 

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The French Navy is expected to operate eight Aquitaine class (FREMM) frigates. The first two - L'Aquitaine and Normandie are seen in this picture taken early 2014 in the Attlantic. Egypt also wants two such frigates for its modernized navy.
The French Navy is expected to operate eight Aquitaine class (FREMM) frigates. The first two – L’Aquitaine and Normandie are seen in this picture taken early 2014 in the Atlantic. Egypt considers buying two such frigates for 1.8 billion Euros as part of its naval modernization plan.

France and Egypt are ‘close to agreement’ on a large scale arms deal that could cost 5-6 billion Euros and include naval vessels and fighter aircraft, La Tribune reports.

The French proposal includes two FREMM multi-mission frigates worth 1.8 billion euros ($2.07 billion), to be built by DCNS, and 20 Rafale combat aircraft from Dassault, worth 3.6 billion euros ($4.15 billion). Both platforms will be armed with missile systems manufactured by MBDA.

The CEOs of these companies visited Cairo this week to promote the deal. This visit was the latest stage in the dialog between the two countries, which also included the visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Paris in November 2014, followed by a high level Egyptian delegation that discussed the deal for 10 days in December. A French delegation also travelled to Cairo last week, to discuss financial aspects of the project.

While Rafale has yet to strike its first export contract, FREMM, as a multi-national program has been more successful in this realm, providing vessels for three navies. If selected, Egypt would be the fourth FREMM operator after Italy, France and Morocco. Egypt intends to make the FREMM frigate the flagship of the Egyptian Navy and wants to acquire the two frigates as quickly as possible. In consequence, France is ready to deliver vessels currently on order for the French Navy, if the deal is signed soon. Egypt wants to have at least one ship for the planned inauguration ceremony of the expanded Suez Canal planned for 2015.

The Egyptian interest in the FREMM follows the acquisition of four Gowind 2500 corvettes for about one billion euros. The lead corvette will be delivered from France, while the remaining three will be built in Egypt.

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RAFAEL and Mirage 2000 fighter jets operating with the French Air Force and Navy are currently employed with laser designation pods and DAMOCLES targeting pods, both produced by Thales. The company is now contracted to develop the next generation targeting pod for these aircraft. Photo: French Air Force
Dassault has delivered over 130 Rafale fighter jets to the French Air Force and Navy. Egypt considers buying 20 such aircraft for 3.6 billion Euros. Photo: French Air Force

The Rafale could be an alternative to Russian or Chinese aircraft the Egyptian Air Force needs to modernize its forces, which currently rely almost exclusively on the Lockheed Martin F-16 supplied by the USA. The latest acquisition of 20 F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft was approved in 2010, but was only partly delivered due a US embargo on weapons delivery to Egypt, which was imposed after the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, that lead to the fall of president Moubarak in 2011 and the military coup in 2013 that brought general Sisi to power. Although Washington has since approved the delivery of some of the embargoed weapons, Cairo has not been trusting Washington and is seeking reliable alternative sources.

Rafale seems to be a viable alternative, as Dassault is seeking orders to beef up its production line, which currently produces only one aircraft per month, stretching production of the remaining 43 aircraft ordered for the French Air Force and Navy until 2018, as the F3R upgrades will be introduced.

Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, will be making his fourth visit to India next week. Kendall’s visit could promote collaboration on defense technologies and co-production of weapons systems in an effort to finalize the projects.

Following th e'digital upgrade', Ravens are now open to get new enhancements. Photo: US Army
Following th e’digital upgrade’, Ravens are now open to get new enhancements. Photo: US Army

The US and India are discussing possible opportunities for collaborative production programs, Reuters reported. Two of the programs under discussion are the local assembly of RQ-11B mini UAVs and integration and manufacturing of mission packages designed for C-130J tactical transport planes, to be used for emergency response.

While Indo-American cooperation on major defense programs has not yet succeeded, particularly due to the restricted US policy on defense export and technology transfer related to weapon systems, unmanned technology and defense electronics, it is believed that technologies related to mini-UAV systems that have been widely exported could be released to India. The Raven RQ-11B built by Aerovironment has been exported to 25 international operators, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Lebanon, Pakistan, Czech Republic and, most recently Canada.

The Indian military, government agencies and local law enforcement have multiple requirements for mini UAVs, although none have reached selections stage yet. The Indian interest attracted many UAV manufacturers from India and abroad. Matured as an operational, combat proven UAV system operated and maintained by soldiers, Raven could be suitable for part of these opportunities. However, the Raven is likely to be ‘over qualified’ for others, particularly those supporting law enforcement and security missions.

Given the foothold Aerovironment could gain in the Indian market, this opportunity could pave it’s path into the Indian market offering other systems that might be more suitable for other applications. The opportunity is likely to follow an agreement for local manufacturing of UAVs, signed by Dynamatic Technologies and AeroVironment Inc. Under the agreement signed in 2013 the two companies agreed to jointly pursue a number of business opportunities for potential customers including the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The cooperative programs are being discussed between India and the US under the Defense Trade and technology Initiative (DTTI) signed in 2012 but never implemented sofar. Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, will be making his fourth visit to India and meet Radha Krishna Mathur, and secretary (defense production) G Mohan Kumar prior to President Barack Obama visit to India that starts January 25. Kendall’s visit could promote collaboration on defense technologies and co-production of weapons systems in an effort to finalize the projects.

The US considers its defense dialog with India a central element of its ‘Asia Pacific Pivot’ – a core component of Obama’s Defense Strategic Guidance announced in January 2012.

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F-35 PEO: “All weapons tests needed for 2B software, the software the U.S. Marine Corps will use to declare IOC, is complete and will be ready to go for their combat capability certification.”

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F-35 Weapons Stations Capacity. The Initial weapons configurations supported by the F-35 Block 2B software version include the AIM-9X, AIM-120C5/7, GBU-31/32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Photo: Lockheed Martin by

The F-35 is on course toward full weapon certification this year, Lockheed Martin announced. “All three variants of the F-35 Lightning II continue on a path toward full weapons certification, by successfully completing numerous milestones during the previous four months.” The company said in a press release.

Among the weapons tests performed recently are AIM-120 (AMRAAM) and AIM-132 ASRAAM air/air missiles. The AMRAAM test was performed at supersonic speed for the first time, completing separation testing needed for the Block 2B milestone. The air/ground tests included delivery of JDAM and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The air/ground weapon delivery missions included separation tests of a GBU-39 and full engagement of two targets designated with coordinates delivered by the F-35 integral Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) – the first test involving the new targeting system developed especially for the F-35.

“The weapons development program continues to track forward on the plan laid out by the Technical Baseline Review approved in 2010,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “All weapons tests needed for 2B software, the software the U.S. Marine Corps will use to declare IOC, is complete and will be ready to go for their combat capability certification.”

Marine Corps F-35B IOC shall be declared when the first operational squadron is equipped with 10-16 aircraft, and US Marines are trained, manned, and equipped to conduct CAS, Offensive and Defensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Assault Support Escort, and Armed Reconnaissance in concert with Marine Air Ground Task Force resources and capabilities. Based on the current F-35 JPO schedule, the F-35B will reach the IOC milestone between July 2015 (Objective) and December 2015 (Threshold). The Air Force F-35A will reach the IOC milestone in August-December 2016. The US Navy’s F-35C is expected to accomplish this task between August 2018 and February 2019.

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Marine Corps F-35B is expected to declare the F35B operational as early as July 2015. The Air Force F-35A could reach that milestone in August-December 2016 with the F-35C becoming operational with the US Navy no later than February 2019. Lockheed martin photo.

Most of the current activities are focused on the initial weapons configurations prepared as part of the Marine Corps’ Initial Operational Capability planned for July 2015. The aircraft completed day and night mission Effectiveness evaluation of the Close Air Support (CAS) mission, one of the critical tasks required for the Marine Corps F-35 Block 2B mission software. The tests also included day and night missions flown with Gen III helmet mounted display, developed for the fourth version of the next phase software block – 3IR4.

Additional weapons are due for integration at later stages. Among these is the FAU-22 four-barrel gun. Preparations for flight testing are due to begin mid-year at Edwards AFB, Calif., and will include ground fire tests, muzzle calibration, flight test integration and in-flight operational tests. The 25mm missionized gun pod carried externally, centerline mounted on the F-35B and F-35C also begins testing this year to meet U.S. service’s desired schedule for full warfighting capability software known as 3F. The Block 3F software is currently planned for delivery with the Low Rate Initial Production nine (LRIP 9) U.S. aircraft in 2017. Absence of a gun as part of the F-35B weapons was claimed as a major flaw, due to the Marines’ need for close air support for ground forces.

Activities accomplished in the past four months included validating 2B weapons software and successfully executing several weapons separation and engagement tests. “The most recent accomplishments are in support of the first military service Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration by the U.S. Marine Corps in July.” The announcement said.

The services are also beginning to integrate the aircraft into weapons and tactics planning. The first F-35 was delivered yesterday (January 15, 2015) to  the Weapons School’s at Nellis AFB, Nevada where it will be used to drive tactics and curriculum development for the Weapons School’s first F-35 course.

The F-35 program has surpassed 25,000 combined flight hours in December with F-35 military fleet aircraft (16,200 hours) nearly doubling the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) test aircraft (8,950) hours.

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An F-35A, at Edwards AFB, Calif., is pictured with its F-35 Systems Development and Demonstration Weapons Suite the aircraft is designed to carry. The F-35 can carry more than 35-hundred pounds of ordinance in Low Observable (stealth) mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested. (Lockheed Martin Photo by Matt Short)

 

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    This tutorial, part of a monthly series of blog posts, focuses on the methods, tools and techniques available for effective defense marketing online.

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    As you are reading this blog, you are obviously using digital, online media as part of your daily ‘media diet’. What about your target audience? Are your customers online, and ready to listen? Can you bring them to remember and understand your information correctly?

    This tutorial is currently available only to Defense-Update Gold Members. It will be opened to all readers on Wednesday, January 14, 2014. Future tutorials in this series will be available as abstract, with full edition open to our Gold Members. Subscriptions are available for only $7.95 / month.

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      Charting the online market leaders in the defense sector, DMD is launching a monthly rating of the Top-25 defense websites. Based on a datamining and analysis of data provided by Similarweb, DMD's Top 25 list highlights the past months' most effective, audience attracting defense websites online. Top 10 are available to all readers, subscribers can access the full list.

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      The ‘Digital Marketing for defense’ (DMD) forum discusses the means and best practices used by marketers in the defense sector. With your cooperation we are planning to establish benchmarks for successful campaign implementation, highlight the best in class websites, online campaigns, and provide our members with insight about the means and resources necessary to gain competitive and successful online campaigns.

      For the survey of defense websites DMD teamed with a SimilarWeb, one of the most powerful website traffic estimator tools and web measurement services, providing an unprecedented insight into website structure, performance and audience. As part of this cooperation, DMD is publishing a list of the top 25 defense websites. The list will be updated on a monthly basis, reflecting the trends, interest and destinations of the defense audience online.

      Top 10 Defense Websites (December 2014)

      1. top10dmd90x220Lockheed Martin
      2. Boeing
      3. BAE Systems
      4. Thales
      5. Northrop Grumman
      6. Rostec
      7. Raytheon
      8. FLIR Systems
      9. L-3 Communications
      10. HAL India

      Subscribe ($7.95/month) to get the full list (Top 25) and more data

      Submit your site

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      DMD is also launching an annual survey of the defense website, ranking best of class among defense industries, government, associations and community. You are invited to suggest your favorite defense-related website for nomination to this survey.

      Continue to the presentation

      Tutorial: Digital Marketing for Defense #1: Campaign Planning Essentials

      THAAD ER is currently in a company funded concept phase. The Missile Defense Agency has supported the study with approximately $2 million in FY14 funding to study the potential concept of operations.

      Lockheed Martin's air and missile defense systems - Patriot PAC-3 (upper), enhanced version (MSE) and the THAAD (lower), shown on a missile display at Lockheed Martin's display.
      Lockheed Martin’s air and missile defense systems – Patriot PAC-3 (upper), enhanced version (MSE) and the THAAD (lower), shown on a missile display at Lockheed Martin’s display.

      The US Missile defense Agency (MDA) is seeking future missile defense measures that will be able to defeat hypersonic glide vehicles, similar to those being developed by China, Russia and India. A Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) tested in January 2014 demonstrated China’s technological ability to fly such vehicles at a speed 10 times the speed of sound (Mach 10). While interceptors can deal with targets flying at such speed, the less predicted flight path and the friction with upper atmosphere make it more difficult for intercept, at least from the ground, analysts suggest.

      On its third test in December the Wu-14 HGV successfully flew at a speed of Mach 8. In previous test last January a similar glider reached a speed of 12,359 km/h (about Mach 10). Another test conducted in August failed. Experts believe the Chinese hypersonic glide test vehicle was clearly designed as a weapon delivery vehicle meant to break through U.S. defenses. Analysts suggest the HGV is more suitable for delivering a conventional weapon rather a nuclear one, given the high precision and extended range it can achieve over ballistic missile delivery system.

      Among the possible solutions, Lockheed Martin is evaluating an extended range variant of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD ER) that could be used to intercept such ultra-fast gliding warheads. THAAD ER is a concept that Lockheed Martin is recommending to the Missile Defense Agency as a way to evolve the THAAD program. Similar effects could also be achieved with other exo-atmospheric interceptors designed with high divert capability.

      Illustration: South China Morning POst (SCMP)
      Illustration: South China Morning POst (SCMP)

      Current missile defense systems are designed to defeat ballistic missiles flying in predictable, high trajectories. More advanced interceptors currently in development are designed to deal with maneuvering targets, but hypersonic gliders flying just above the edge of earth’s atmosphere would pose extremely difficult targets to beat, due to the combination of flat trajectory and high speed (8-10 Mach) which would challenge the limited maneuverability interceptors can develop in that boundary layer, where aerodynamic maneuvering (in the atmosphere) is limited and reaction control thrusters, used to divert the interceptor toward its target in space are not brought to their full effect.

      Subscribe to read more on THAAD ER and hypersonic weapons

      THAAD ER is currently in a company funded concept phase. MDA has provided us with approximately $2 million in FY14 funding to study the potential concept of operations.

      THAAD interceptor seen here launched on its tenth test flight. Photo: MDA
      THAAD interceptor seen here launched on its tenth test flight. Photo: MDA

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