As India and Russia are negotiating a follow-on contract for engineering phase of India's future stealth fighter, the Indian side is rising concern about the lack of access to technology and adequate work share assigned to the Indian side under the $25-30 billion program.
The PAK-FA test program has been aggressive, and meant to bring the aircraft to maturity by 2016. Three prototypes are currently flying with the flight tests – two are used for flight testing at Zhukovsky, a third prototype has recently been delivered to the Russian Air Force 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Centre in Akhtubinsk for testing.
Despite Delhi’s concerns over its workshare in the $11 billion developmental engineering phase, India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is soon due to increase its investment in the Perspective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF), the next generation stealth fighter for the Indian air force, pursuing the follow-on developmental engineering phase. As part of this investment HAL will be required to establish the production infrastructure to build one of two prototypes and conduct flight testing toward the end of the decade. According to plans, the domestic production is slated to begin in 2020. With the contract signed, this unprecedented cooperative development program will take almost eight years to complete.
“This is a unique project aiming at long-term cooperation” Alexander Klementyev, Sukhoi deputy director general said, “we have never had such a format of cooperation before. There used to be licensed production in China and in India, but now it will be joint designing and production of a new combat aircraft.”
A fourth FAK-FA prototype was damaged by fire after a demonstration flight arranged for an Indian delegation. The pilot was unharmed and the fire was extinguished quickly, but the aircraft itself was damaged. Photo: Sukhoi
In contrast to the Russian enthusiasm, the Indians are somewhat sceptical about the future. According to recent articles in the local media, India has complained about lack of transparency from the Russian side, as Moscow is not meeting its obligations of technology sharing in the current pre-developmental phase of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The preliminary design phase was completed in 2013, under a collaborative investment split between India and Russia. However, Indian officials have complained that although they paid for half of the program the Indians are moderated out of the program.
As 5th generation aircraft the PAK-FA and PMF will use highly advanced composite materials and special airframe coating to maintain low radar signature and low weight. The powerplant will also get unique shields of exotic materials to reduce infrared observability. The Russians insist that these requirements will demand unique manufacturing capabilities that do not currently exist in India.
But these advanced technologies are kept close to the chest of the Russians. The Indians suspects the Russians seek to further erode the partnership into a financial partnership rather than a technological collaboration. Circles at the Indian Air Force claim that HAL has not been persistent enough in the negotiations, to secure Indian work share in the program. They claim the Indian contribution through HAL will be minor – tyres, basic navigational instrument VOR-DME, coolant for the radar, laser designation pod and heads-up display. Even within the agreed 13 per cent work share, the actual indigenous items will be in single digits and the rest will be procured from abroad. “The complex negotiations and urgency of deployment means that HAL could settle for much less work than initially agreed upon,” air force officials stated, placing the IAF in precisely the sort of position it is looking to avoid: total dependence on Russia for yet another frontline platform.
Indian sources claim their engineers are moderated from the program, as Moscow is not keen to share technical details about its next generation stealth fighter, on which the Indian version will be based. Indian pilots are not allowed to fly the aircraft either. The Russians claim foreign pilots are barred from flying in their airspace, although this issue has not prevented Indians to fly MiG-29s and Su-30s in the past…
In the absence of formal developmental engineering contract, the Russians are keeping the Indians as financial partners but do not provide access to the technological side of the program. To date no PAK-FA has left Russian territory. The Russians don’t allow foreign pilots to come near the aircraft. The first prototype is scheduled to begin testing in India in 2015.
Prior to the contract negotiations, through the preliminary design discussions the Indian side raised questions about maintenance issues, the engine, stealth features, weapon carriage system, safety and reliability. The Indian Air Force has also expressed concern about the engine of the new fighter – the current design uses the powerplant used on the Sukhoi-30, but India is seeking a more powerful engine. A change has been promised at an additional cost. Sources said there could not be any progress until these issues were resolved.
Part of the Russian reservation about work sharing in the PAK-FA program is the urgency they view the development, particularly with the Chinese and US competitors. According to the Russian Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev, the first T-50 is scheduled for delivery to the Russian Air Force in 2016, to follow with serial deliveries through the 2020s. According to Bondarev, Air Force pilots have already started flights on the first plane at Akhtubinsk, soon to be joined by a second one soon.
Five prototypes were currently participating in the test and certification work, which is due to conclude in 2015, ahead of first delivery envisioned for 2016. In parallel with the flight test programme the company is also preparing the final assembly line at the KnAAPO plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur for serial production.
Chinese scientists are studying the applications of supercavitation to propel large bodies underwater at high speed. Scaled up into a full size 'supersonic submarine', such vessel could make the distance from Shanghai China to San Francisco, CA in less than two hours.
The Chinese liquid spray membrane will employ rudderless control of submarines, travelling through supercavitation phase, enabling high speed travel underwater.
The propulsion method used to speed up the Ghost is the same enabling the Russian Skval torpedo to gain a speed four time higher than its western counterparts.
Chinese scientists are studying the applications of supercavitation to propel large bodies underwater at high speed. A team of scientists at the Harbin institute of Technology’s Complex Flow and Heat Transfer lab headed by Prof. Li Fengchen has come up with a new approach to create an ‘air bubble’ required for rapid underwater travel.
“We are very excited by its potential” Prof. Fengchen said, explaining that the unique attributes of the team’s new concept is the ability to control the vessel within the air bubble, without a rudder. Lack of steering and control has limited the application of this concept to unmanned bodies such as torpedoes, that were fired in a straight line because they had limited ability to turn. “Our method is different from any other approach, such as vector propulsion or thrust created by an engine” Li said.
Scaled up into a full size ‘supersonic submarine’, such vessel could make the distance from Shanghai China to San Francisco, CA in less than two hours
The supercavitation propulsion concept was explored in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, but implemented only with torpedoes (Shkval). In the US, applications are explored with hovercraft and counter-mine applications. (New Scientist Magazine, 7-2000) The Chinese team’s concept employs the application of a liquid spray around the underwater vessel’s body, creating a membrane on its surface, reducing the drag at low speed. As the speed reaches 40 knots (75 km/h) and higher the vessel would enter the supercavitation state. At this stage, the membrane that wraps the vessel would help with steerin by applying variable levels of friction in the appropriate axis. remain Wang said even he had been kept in the dark about recent supercavitation developments in China. “By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier,” he told the South China Morning Post.
The Russian Shkval torpedo could not easily steer underwater and would often be fired in a straight line.
Scaled up into a full size ‘supersonic submarine’, such vessel could make the distance from Shanghai China to San Francisco, CA in less than two hours. A submarine that could be traDespite these breakthough researches, supercavitating super-submarines are still decades away, Li said, including the introduction of powerful underwater rocket engines that could give the vessels longer range and higher underwater velocity, up to supersonic speed. The effective range of Russian supercavitation torpedoes (Shkval) that could travel at a speed of 200 knots (370km/h) was between 6-8 nm (11-15 km).
Could a stealthy, fast going corvette-sized 'super Ghost' vessel take on the US Navy Littoral Combat Ship and win? The people at Portsmouth' Juliet Marine Systems believe it can.
The Ghost prototype developed and built by Juliet Marine Systems piercing the Piscataqua river during one of its ‘test flights’.
Juliet Marine Systems a small company from Portsmouth, N.H., has developed a unique high-speed watercraft called Ghost that could take on missions close to shores, where larger vessels, such as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) would normally be too vulnerable to operate – company officials say. While initially the Ghost design was offered for fast patrol, special operations and force protection missions, Juliet Marine is now promoting a scaled-up corvette version ‘super Ghost’ for the US Navy re-evaluation of the Littoral Combat Ship force structure.
“With Ghost you can you can get into denied-access ocean areas, monitor what’s going on, launch operations and leave, and no one knows you’re there”
Plans are to build a corvette-sized 46 meter (150 ft) ‘super Ghost’ at a cost of about $50 million per vessel – six times cheaper than the $300 million per-ship cost of a current Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ship. Such a vessel could operate with LCS or with other oceangoing naval vessels, providing a more affordable, agile and survivable naval strike forces.
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Started as a privately funded venture, the Ghost development began in 2008, leading to the completion of the prototype in early 2010, at an investment of US$15 million. Each vessel is estimated to cost about $10 million. Apart from the US Navy, other government agencies and special forces which could be interested, Juliet Marine has been in high-level discussions with a foreign nation interested in 25 Ghosts for potential sale $300 million. Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
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“With Ghost, you can get into denied-access ocean areas and loiter for 30 days with the fuel on board. You can listen to cell phone conversations, you can monitor what’s going on, you can launch operations and leave, and no one knows you’re there.” Gregory Sancoff told Bloomberg, “That’s not something the government can do right now.”
The supercavitation propulsion method used to speed up the Ghost is the same enabling the Russian Shkval torpedo to gain a speed four time higher than its western counterparts.
The craft is built of a main hull which is lifted above water when the Ghost is moving at speeds over eight knots. Its powerplants comprise of two T53-703 turboshaft engines seated in pontoons, powering a counter rotating propeller located at the front of each pod. The propellers are creating ‘supercavitation’ effect, enabling the pod (carrying the entire vessel) to move through the bubble trail rather than the denser sea-water, thus able to achieve 900 times less hull friction, compared to a conventional watercraft.
This effect enables the vessel to cut through waves of 10 feet at high speed, remaining extremely stable by employing computer controlled stabilization using ‘fly by wire’ controls. In testing sorties the Ghost has already achieved a speed of 30 knots and is expected to reach the 50-knot range, matching the top speed of much smaller fast attack boats. The fully computerized control enables the vessel to become a truly stealthy ghost ship, operating on extended missions without humans on board.
The supercavitation effect used by the Ghost enables the vessel to move through water inducing 900 less drag, which translates into more stable ride with less fuel consumption, resulting in faster, and longer missions.
The US Air Force has been testing the Skate, a small, miniature drone made of styrofoam that has demonstrated the ability to autonomously and quietly conduct surveillance missions in urban areas, or in areas with dense obstacles, providing constant monitoring and surveillance for security and force protection
Designed to operate by the soldiers in the field, Skate is simple to assemble, operate and repair. Operation is autonomous and intuitive, with the vehicle managing all flight control functions autonomously. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences
The Skate Small UAV has recently completed an evaluation with US Air Force expeditionary forces in Afghanistan, providing ‘situational awareness’ around Afghan villages close to US bases, without human presence. The Skate, developed by Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation as portable, man-portable system designed for field operation. “Skate is a force multiplier that provides the warfighter with immediate eyes-on-target and real-time situational awareness” said Douglas Szczublewski, the Air Force program manager.
A Skate system comprises two electrically-powered air vehicles made of Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) styrofoam stored folded in the carrying case, payload modules including streaming video or infrared infrared imaging sensors, batteries, an intuitive, hand-held user interface and the a sling enabling hand-launching from confined areas. A variant of the system also offers a capture hook for automated launch and recovery and charging from power sources on the ground.
In addition to autonomous missions Skate’s flight can also be controlled by the operator, using the hand held monitor. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences
Skate’s unique capability to autonomously manoeuvre and navigate in urban or crowded environments enables this lightweight air vehicle to deliver long endurance on quiet electric power. By using articulating motor pods Skate merges the simplicity and endurance of a fixed wing platform with the manoeuvrability and mission flexibility of a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) asset.
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Independently articulating motor pods allow the Skate UAS to rapidly transition between vertical and horizontal flight. Transferring from hovering to wingborne flight increases the endurance and range of the system to levels characteristic of a fixed wing platform and far beyond those of a traditional VTOL asset. It is also key to the drone’s manoeuvrability in confined spaces and urban environment. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences
The first series of manned/unmanned operations on board USS Theodore Roosevelt began when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B's recovery
“The X-47B’s air vehicle performance, testing efficiency and safety technologies and procedures developed and tested throughout the program’s execution have paved the way for the Navy’s future carrier-based unmanned system capability,” Rear Adm. Mat Winter, PEO for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons said. Photo: Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki
Testing of the X-47B completed an important test series this week aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). On Aug. 17, 2014 the drone demonstrated that it can operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. The flights – the first time manned and unmanned carrier aircraft have operated together in the same carrier controlled landing pattern at the same time – took place in the Eastern Atlantic. They offered Northrop Grumman and the Navy an opportunity to collect data that will help reduce risks associated with integrating unmanned aircraft with conventional manned carrier operations.
Building on lessons learned from its first test period aboard the Roosevelt in November 2013, the X-47B team is now focused on perfecting deck operations and performing maneuvers with manned aircraft in the flight pattern.
Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations. This is key for the future Carrier Air Wing.
Demonstrating key parts of flight integration of an unmanned system into the carrier air wing, an X-47B followed an F/A-18 Hornet taking off from the carrier deck. Soon after as the two were coming to land, the Hornet flew 90 seconds behind the X-47B in all but standard carrier recovery pattern. The 90 second lapse would enable the X-47B to land, raise its hook, fold its wings and be taxied out of the landing area to clear the deck for the F/A-18 to follow, just like any other manned aircraft does.
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“Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations. This is key for the future Carrier Air Wing.” Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation office. Photo: US Navy by Alex Millar
A compact yet powerful laser weapon developed by Raytheon will soon be integrated on a HMMWV, to demonstrate its ability to defeat enemy drones, as part of the enhancement of current US Marine Corps ground-based air-defense capabilities.
Raytheon’s laser architecture is implemented in a number of directed-energy weapon applications, including the Laser-Phalanx derivative of the classic naval Close-In Weapon System. Illustration: Raytheon.
The US Navy Office of Naval Research has awarded Raytheon US$11 million adapt a tactical laser weapon systems to a vehicle-based laser device, capable of defeating low-flying threats such as enemy drones. For the field demonstration planned by ONR Raytheon will integrate a short-range laser weapon system on a HMMWV. When systems are fielded they are likely to deploy on the future Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). Some of the system’s components have already been tested under the ‘Ground Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-the-Move Future Naval Capabilities’ program, demonstrating detection and fire control functions of the system, with the compact phased array radar detecting and tracking UAVs of all sizes. Later in the year, researchers will test the entire system against targets using a 10kW laser as a stepping stone to a 30kW laser. Raytheon will deliver a laser with a minimum power output of 25kW will be used. According to ONR, the 30kW system is expected to be ready for field testing in 2016. Tests will evaluate the complete intercept process, from detection and tracking to firing, all battle-damage assessment, all based on sensors and effectors integrated on the test vehicle.
According to Raytheon, the patented Planar Wave-Guide architecture enables the implementation of single aperture optical design; without the use of complex optical beam combining elements, delivering high beam quality, and scalability beyond 200 kW output power. The design also features efficient heat removal and thermal management capability, yielding compact size, light weight and modularity. Photo: Raytheon
“Raytheon’s laser solution generates high power output in a small, light-weight rugged package ideally suited for mobile platforms,” said Bill Hart, vice president of Raytheon Space Systems. Raytheon’s planar waveguide (PWG) technology is the key to its unique approach to high energy lasers. Using a single PWG, the size and shape of a 12 inch ruler, Raytheon high energy lasers generate sufficient power to effectively engage small aircraft. According to Hart, the technology implemented for the test is scalable to more powerful systems. “Our PWG laser architecture is scalable: we can achieve increasingly higher power levels with the same compact design we’re using for GBAD.” he said. With the proliferation of UAVs in the modern battlefield, the Marine Corps expect that units increasingly will have to defend themselves against adversaries trying to perform reconnaissance, surveillance and attack from the air by unmanned systems. According to Col. William Zamagni, head of ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department, GBAD will give the Marine Corps a capability to counter those UAV threat efficiently, sustainably and organically with austere expeditionary forces. “GBAD employed in a counter UAV role is just the beginning of its use and opens myriad other possibilities for future expeditionary forces.”
The Ground Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-the-Move Future Naval Capabilities program calls for a field demonstration of a Humvee-mounted short-range laser weapon system with a minimum power output of 25kW. The Raytheon-built laser will be packaged to meet the U.S. Marine Corps’ demanding size, weight and power requirements. Illustration: Raytheon
The US Army has selected Bell Helicopters and a team formed by Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing as the two contractors to design and build future helicopters under the service Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator JMR-TD).
Sikorsky and Boeing will develop the Defiant, utilizing the X2 technology, combining counter-rotating rotor design with pusher prop providing the forward speed. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update
The US Army has selected two contractors to design and build future helicopters under the service Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator JMR-TD). The two contractors selected for the Phase I stage of the program are Bell Helicopters with the V-280 Valor tilt-rotor design and the Sikorsky-Boeing team, that will develop a future multirole helicopter based on the SB>1 defiant. First flights of these new demonstrators are expected in 2017. Two of the smaller bidders – AVX that offered the compound helicopter, and Karem Aircraft optimum-speed tilt-rotor, were both eliminated.
The Defiant aircraft will feature counter-rotating rigid main rotor blades for vertical and forward flight, a pusher propeller for high-speed acceleration and deceleration and an advanced fly-by-wire flight control system. According to Sikorsky, The Defiant aircraft packages evolutionary technologies in a new, innovative and affordable design that flies faster, farther and with more payload.
“Defiant will use Sikorsky’s proven X2 technology to overcome aircraft design challenges, which will be critical requirements on future vertical lift aircraft,” said Mick Maurer, Sikorsky president. “The Sikorsky-Boeing team’s integrated approach has created a unique blend of expertise, innovative spirit and customer commitment that are unmatched in the industry. The complementary capabilities of each team member have delivered a design that will provide the best future vertical lift solution to the U.S. Army, and the flexibility of our design makes it suited for naval applications as well. This is a major leap forward.”
The V-280 Valor builds upon Bell’s proven tiltrotor technology which delivers high speed and agility to perform a multitude of missions. Bell Helicopters is proposing the Bell V-280 as a ‘clean-sheet design’, which reduces complexity and improves reliability, maintainability and sustainability, while reducing total ownerships cost. According to Bell the helicopter is expected to fly twice as fast and reach twice the range of today’s assault helicopters. Bell has teamed with Lockheed Martin on this program. The role of Lockheed Martin will focus on integrated avionics, sensors, and weapons. Bell has invited more companies to join as team members.
The JMR TD program supports the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program to deliver the next generation of vertical lift aircraft with greater performance, reliability and affordability. The project is the precursor to the Army’s future helicopter platform that will be replacing some 4,000 helicopters in US military service by the 2030s. at a cost that could top $100 billion.
Kurds, Iraqi forces supported by US strikes take control of the Mosul dam | AQAP militants execute 14 soldiers in Hadarmout, amid sectarian fighting in Yeme | Overloaded Iraqi Mi-17 crash on a rescue mission to Sinjar | West provide air support, sending arms, advisors to assist Iraqi Kurds | ISIL regain grip of Deir el-Zor rural area in East Syria | US conducts air strikes against ISIL near Erbil | White House authorise humanitarian support to Iraqi minorities, air strikes targeting ISIS | US missile cruiser enroute to the Black Sea | 40,000 stranded on Sinjar mountain under ISIS death threats | France to speed up arms for Lebanon | Pakistan air strikes hit militants in Datta-khel, North Waziristan | US general killed by Afghan 'insider attack' | Egypt, Algeria align against Libyan extremists | 32 Strike Tunnels Destroyed | ISIS Takes the town of Ersal | AQAP jihadists kill 9 Yemeni soldiers | Two Terror attacks rock Jerusalem | Iraqi Air Force to assist Kurds fighting ISIS | 23 Syrians killed by barrel bombs in Idlib
Overnight the RAF has deployed three missions delivering emergency supplies to Yazidi refugees on Mt. Sinjar, in north west Iraq. The UK has put together a package of emergency humanitarian assistance to get lifesaving aid to tens of thousands of people across northern and central Iraq, who have fled ISIL militants. The humanitarian aid drops by RAF C130 aircraft, which took place early this morning, included nearly 9,000 5-litre water bottles and 816 solar lanterns. The aircraft deployed from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire England. Later today the RAF dispatched a number of Tornado GR4 strike aircraft, fitted with Litening III targeting pods. They will be positioned in Cyprus, available to fly over the crisis area at short notice to provide vital intelligence to assist the delivery of the UK aid. So far, three consignments of aid, provided by the Department for International Development, have been delivered to the area by the RAF using Hercules aircraft.
Royal Air Force Hercules C-130J aircraft from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire England carry out aid delivering humanitarian assistance to thousands of people stranded on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq. The missions performed at night involved aerial refuelling from an Royal Air Force Voyager (A330) (right photo) and a night airdrop from low altitude over the target area (left photos). The cargo delivered included jerry cans filled with clean water, tents and tarpaulins to provide basic shelter and solar lights that can also recharge mobile phones and enable communication. Photo: Cpl Neil Bryden RAF
RAF C-130 Hercules air dropping emergency aid over northern Iraq. Photo: Cpl Neil Bryden RAF
An F/A-18E from the VFA-15 “Valions”, CVN 67 G.H. Bush prepared for takeoff on a strike mission in Iraq, August 8, 2014. The aircraft were carrying an AG/M-54 Laser JDAM laser/GPS guided bombs and Maverick guided missile. Photo: US Navy by M. Keith
The following report aggregates news abstracts covering current news from conflict areas from around the Middle East. Flip on to read the latest news items. These news items are arranged in chronological order and include related locations and maps, images or videos. Links to the sources are also provided for further reading. We are currently experimenting this format and will appreciate receiving your comments.
August 2014 briefs: Kurds, Iraqi forces supported by US strikes take control of the Mosul dam | AQAP militants execute 14 soldiers in Hadarmout, amid sectarian fighting in Yemen | Overloaded Iraqi Mi-17 crash on a rescue mission to Sinjar | West provide air support, sending arms and advisors to assist Iraqi Kurds | ISIL regain grip of Deir el-Zor rural area in East Syria | US conducts air strikes against ISIL near Erbil | White House authorise humanitarian support to Iraqi minorities, air strikes targeting ISIS | US missile cruiser enrout to the Black Sea | 40,000 stranded on Sinjar mountain under ISIS death threats | France to speed up arms for Lebanon | Pakistan air strikes hit militants in Datta-khel, North Waziristan | US Maj. General Harold J. Greene. killed by Afghan ‘insider attack’ | Egypt, Algeria align against Libyan extremists | 32 Strike Tunnels Destroyed in Gaza | Lebanon: ISIS Takes the town of Ersal | AQAP jihadists kill 9 Yemeni soldiers | Two Terror attacks rock Jerusalem | Iraqi Air Force to assist Kurds fighting ISIS | 23 Syrians killed by barrel bombs in Idlib
As Defense-Update has reported on the developments concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, following is a video presentation published by “Vice News”, describing ISIL’s strategy in the Islamic State it has established and how the group is indoctrinating children and youth to fight its battles.
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 0f 5
More parts to follow…
Engineers at Picatinny Arsenal are researching a way to develop a tracer round that will be visible to the shooter in daylight and night time but would remain invisible to the enemy at night.
The ultimate goal is to replace the tracer rounds with the OWL rounds and, potentially, put OWL on the back of every ball round. Since it is anticipated that OWL will be applied to all ball rounds, effectively making ball rounds trace without the need of a cavity, they will all have the same trajectory. And since the shooter can see the exact trajectory of where their round is heading, they can quickly make adjustments to get on target faster. Photo: US Army by Reece Lodder.
Engineers at Picatinny Arsenal are researching a way to develop a tracer round that will be visible to the shooter in daylight and night time but would remain invisible to the enemy at night.
Tracer rounds, which are usually loaded as every fifth round in machine gun belts, provide essential information to Soldiers firing at an enemy target by creating a line-of-sight that allows them to track the trajectory of their bullets and adjust their aim. However, the pyrotechnic streak they emit also gives away the shooter’s location by allowing the enemy to follow the line of pyrotechnic back to the shooter.
The ultimate goal is to replace the tracer rounds with the OWL rounds and, potentially, put OWL on the back of every ball roun
Current tracer projectiles have a longer jacket, in comparison to their ball projectile counterparts, in order to incorporate a cavity that is packed with pyrotechnics. As the bullet flies through the air, the pyrotechnics burn and emit a flame from the back of the round, which allows the enemy to see the shooter’s position.
The One-Way Luminescence, (OWL), tracer round being developed by engineers at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), will give only those at the shooter location the ability to see where the round is headed, without revealing their position. This will keep Soldiers safer because their location will not be observable to the enemy.
“OWL is a technology approach that doesn’t allow an enemy target to trace back to who is firing rounds at him, even if the target is using night vision goggles,” said Christel Seitel, Quality Assurance Lead for the OWL program.
ARDEC engineers are experimenting with a variety of potential solutions. With one of the OWL technology concepts, “we’re just putting a thin layer of material on the back of the ball round. So, instead of burning pyrotechnics, our luminescence is like a glow-in-the-dark sticker. You excite it with specific wavelengths of light. The ultimate goal is to replace the tracer rounds with the OWL rounds and, potentially, put OWL on the back of every ball round,” Seitel said.
ARDEC scientists are currently exploring options to achieve this, looking at different coatings and materials to find a solution that satisfies the Army’s requirement to be both a day and night tracer. “Finding something that burns brighter than the sun is difficult,” Seitel said of the technology development goal. “You want to have something that’s bright enough to give you that contrast [with the background].”
OWL is a technology approach that doesn’t allow an enemy target to trace back to who is firing rounds at him, even if the target is using night vision
OWL is a technology approach that doesn’t allow an enemy target to trace back to who is firing rounds at him, even if the target is using night vision. Photo: US Army by Justin English
Because little to no material is ejected from an OWL projectile, finding a technology that meets or exceeds the light output of a current pyrotechnic tracer is extremely challenging. Current pyrotechnic trace rounds lose mass as the pyrotechnics burn, so they don’t completely mimic the trajectory of the ball rounds, which don’t lose mass. Since it is anticipated that OWL will be applied to all ball rounds, effectively making ball rounds trace without the need of a cavity, they will all have the same trajectory. And since the shooter can see the exact trajectory of where their round is heading, they can quickly make adjustments to get on target faster.
The absence of pyrotechnic material makes the OWL manufacturing safer and less sensitive to handle in a production environment. However, there are a few OWL concepts that contain limited amounts of energetic material to try and overcome the sun’s light output. “Currently, the pyrotechnics have a separate wing in manufacturing plants due to safety concerns. But if you can just make your bullets and then paste something on the back, you won’t have the costs of special handling.” Seitel said.
OWL is expected to become a formal acquisition program in 2015, with selection of a final OWL design anticipated in fiscal year 2017, followed with the transition to an Engineering and Manufacturing Development. Currently OWL is a joint effort by ARDEC, the Program Executive Office for Ammunition, the Joint Service Small Arms Program Office, Army Corps of Engineers, Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory and Night Vision Laboratory. Army Project Manager Maneouver Ammunition Systems (PM-MAS) is also part of the joint effort, supporting ARDEC in obtaining science and technology funding. In addition to the in-house design effort, multiple contracts have been awarded in fiscal year 2014 using the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium process to seek competitive prototype designs from industry.
Tracer rounds, which are usually loaded as every fifth round in machine gun belts, provide essential information to Soldiers firing at an enemy target by creating a line-of-sight that allows them to track the trajectory of their bullets and adjust their aim. However, the pyrotechnic streak they emit also gives away the shooter’s location by allowing the enemy to follow the line of pyrotechnic back to the shooter. Photo: US Army by Mark Oliva.
The U.S. Army is looking at helmet prototypes with optional parts to protect the face and jaw from various threats, including blast waves.
The Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradeable Protection, or HEaDS-UP, helmet prototypes allow crew members to avoid breathing air fouled by dust, sand and rocks while looking out the hatches of moving vehicles. Photo: NSRDEC by David Kamm
The US Army recently concluded a study evaluating the safety and survivability applications of different headgear carried by the modern soldier. The Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center conducted the study called ‘Helmet Electronics and Display system — Upgradeable Protection’ (HEaDS-UP) as part of a multi-year effort to develop integrated headgear technologies for the Army and Marines. The program, managed by Mr. Donald R. Lee II, recommend potential upgrades for current helmets, improving the safety and integration with headgear, communications displays. Two modular headgear concept designs emerged from the process include improved eye and face protection which include the mandible and visor. Both provide fragmentation protection for the face. According to Don Lee, project engineer in the Headgear Thrust Area at Natick, the new new headgear parts will be provided as attachments parts can be added or removed in seconds. “Being able to don that (mandible and visor) protection when needed or being able to remove it when not needed is the big ‘wow’ factor,” he added. Other aspects of the program are evaluating improved ballistic materials, non-ballistic impact liner materials and designs, see-through and projected heads-up display technologies,improved hearing protection and communications.
The response we received that every Soldier that used these systems liked the prototype systems over their currently fielded system
Studies of combat injuries have shown that 72 percent of all the injuries to the head are to the face, indicating the need for improved protection that will also conform with the soldier’s ‘human factors’. “We were able to integrate the concepts during their normal training scenarios, and then following their training event, get feedback from them” Lee said. “It was quite overwhelming, the response we received that every Soldier that used these systems liked the prototype systems over their currently fielded system.”
Another aspect of HEaDS-UP project is understand and minimize the blast effect on the soldier’s head, a task Dr. David Mott—an aerospace engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have studied with his colleagues Ted Young and Doug Schwer . “Helmets are required to protect against a combination of threats, including ballistic and blunt impacts,” he says. The NRL research is helping to understand how blast, generated by explosions of IEDs, mines or impact of explosive anti-tank weapons, will effect the head protected by the helmet. The study explores how different shapes of helmets behave in an IED environment and its results would recommend the optimal protection for multiple threats situations.
These studies have shown that the mandible and visor are instrumental in protecting the wearer from those blast effects.
NRL tested four configurations of an Army helmet prototype against computer simulations of blast waves from various directions
In 2008, NRL tested military helmets for the U. S. Marine Corps, in collaboration with Allen-Vanguard. The researchers set off an explosion near a mannequin, which had pressure sensors on its head. “After the initial wave hit, they were getting some additional spikes in the pressure on the forehead” Lee explained. The simulations showed the incoming wave of pressure can, as he says, “infiltrate the gap between the head and the helmet shell.” Sometimes called underwash, the effect has since been studied with various helmet types and reproduced by other investigators. Further experiments determined that pressure waves that infiltrate under the brim can then converge under the helmet. This causes “high pressures on the side of the head away from where the blast originated.” Trapped, the high pressure can then send a wave back toward the blast source, and this effect caused the forehead sensor in the 2008 experiments to “pick up a spike as that wave was exiting from under the helmet.”
When using just the helmet shell and suspension, the shock wave hits the face, creating a pressure spike on the eye. The wave also reflects from the suspension under the front of the helmet, causing a pressure spike on the forehead. “Now when you add the face shield, it keeps that direct hit from happening. A weaker wave still refracts around the bottom of the shield and reaches the face, but you significantly reduce the pressure on the forehead and the eyes by adding that shield.” Mott explained. If the simulation includes the mandible shield with the face shield, again, most of the initial wave is deflected, but according to Mott, there are side effects.
Pressure changes on the head after a front-facing blast, for each of four Army prototype configurations. “When you start adding these extra pieces of equipment,” says Dr. David Mott of his research at NRL, “you don’t always get what you expect. (subscribe for larger version)
As the helmet variants got more complicated, so did the wave behavior. “When you start adding these extra pieces of equipment, you don’t always get what you expect,” says Mott. “Multiple shocks interacting with each other can amplify the pressure, as can reflections off the structures that are in the suspension pads or lining inside a helmet.”
Crew members looking out hatches discovered an unexpected benefit during evaluations. “When the Soldiers wore the prototype systems with the visor and mandible,” said Lee, “it was the first time that they weren’t eating sand and dust and rocks going down the road.” Ultimately, the program data will be transferred to Program Executive Office Soldier and the Marine Corps for decisions about what technologies should be fielded.
Assessing the helmets for personnel operating with armored vehicles, the study evaluated a single helmet for mounted and dismounted operations. According to Lee, mounted soldiers are provided two helmets. “They have their Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet and they have their Advanced Combat Helmet. So, if they dismount from the vehicle, they’re supposed to swap helmets. We’ve proven through our program that there can be one helmet for both mounted and dismounted Soldiers, which, I think, is a big deal. I think the program’s proven that a one-helmet system for ground Soldiers, whether they’re mounted or dismounted, can exist.”
The new integrated helmet technology would eliminate the need for crew members to switch to their Army Combat Helmets when dismounting from their vehicles. Crew members looking out hatches discovered an unexpected benefit during evaluations. “When the Soldiers wore the prototype systems with the visor and mandible,” said Lee, “it was the first time that they weren’t eating sand and dust and rocks going down the road. Photo: NSRDEC by David Kamm
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