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China SubChina’s submarine fleet made its first known trip into the Indian Ocean, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. A Chinese attack submarine passed through the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia with sightings near Sri Lanka and the Persian Gulf.

It’s the latest report of the significant steps forward the Chinese navy has taken in advancing its submarine fleet. Earlier this year, a U.S. Navy report estimated that the Chinese navy has nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines able to launch strikes against the United States from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The Chinese navy has ambitious plans over the next 15 years to rapidly advance its fleet of surface ships and submarines as well as maritime weapons and sensors, according to a report by the Office of Naval Intelligence.

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Antares_explosion_night

(Story was updated to include additional information and quotes from the NASA press conference, which concluded around 10 p.m. local time.)

An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket exploded seconds after liftoff Tuesday from a launch pad in Virginia.

The company’s $200 million Antares rocket topped with a Cygnus spacecraft suffered a “catastrophic anomaly” at 6:22 p.m. local time in what would have been its third mission to resupply the International Space Station.

“Teams were not tracking any issues prior to launch,” one official said on NASA TV, which was live-streaming the event. [Continue reading…]

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Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout test preparations at Naval Bas

The latest version of Navy’s Fire Scout reconnaissance drone is being readied for actual takeoff and landing from the deck of a Navy ship at sea, Northrop Grumman announced following recent test takeoffs and landings using a sloped platform at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, California.

“The … tests are designed to be as real as it gets to actually operating on a Navy ship,” Capt. Patrick Smith, Fire Scout program manager at Naval Air Systems Command, said in a statement. “The autonomous MQ-8C Fire Scout system is able to precisely track and understand the roll and pitch of the surface which resembles at-sea conditions.”

The same test platform was used previously to test the MQ-8B Fire Scout for ship-based operations. That unmanned aviation system began at-sea testing earlier this year. Northrop Grumman, the Navy’s prime contractor on the MQ-8, said initial ship-based flights of the C-model will take place before year’s end. [Continue reading…]

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USSVirginiaThe Navy is outfitting a prototype Virginia-class attack submarine platform with a series of upgrades designed to improve sonar detection and make boats less detectable and more stealthy.

The work includes the addition of a large vertical array, special coating materials for the exterior of the submarine and special noise-reduction technologies for the engine room, Rear Adm. Joe Tofalo, director, submarine warfare, said Oct. 23 at the Naval Submarine League annual symposium, Falls Church, Va.

The innovations are being worked on the USS South Dakota, a Block III Virginia-class attack submarine, or SSN, now in development.

“The USS South Dakota is a platform for three crucial aspects of our efforts to work on acoustic superiority. The large vertical array is about 60-percent designed with a preliminary design and we are installing a similar array on the USS Maryland that is 75-percent complete,” Tofalo said. [Continue reading…]

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RailgunBAE Systems officials said an electromagnetic rail gun firing a kinetic energy warhead could be a real option for the Army’s next generation Future Fighting Vehicle, which the service hopes to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Following the cancellation of the Ground Combat Vehicle, Army officials said they want the defense industry to offer a wide range of technologies before the Army decides whether to pursue the Future Fighting Vehicle, or an additional Bradley upgrade.

BAE Systems presented a host of possible technologies at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference last week. Among those was a model of the electromagnetic rail gun the company is developing for the Navy. [Continue reading…]

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