Stealth-y patrolThe U.S. Air Force is launching a new air-supremacy effort designed to identify and develop next-generation technologies to maintain America’s air dominance through 2030 at the same time the future of stealth is being questioned.

The service has stood up teams to experiment and conduct technology demonstrations to identify innovations that will guide the service and its platforms into future in which the Air Force expects to face more threats from advanced militaries like China or North Korea, Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy for Air Force acquisition, told Military​.com.

“We are going to be facing adversaries that are as modern as we are if not more so. This provides us the opportunity to leverage the entire world market of technology development through our collaborative activity with our allies,” she said.

The effort, which includes work with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s research arm, DARPA, is looking at a wide range of future applications including hypersonics, stealth, advanced sensors, cyber technologies, drones, space systems and directed energy weapons, Pawlikowski said. [Continue reading…]

Russia Bear BomberRussia has stepped up military air operations over Europe while continuing to bolster aggression by separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“There’s been an uptick to Russian air activity in the region” to include a flight by two Russian “Bear” bombers off Britain’s southern coast Wednesday, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

Warren also said “we have continued to see a large volume of equipment flowing from Russia into Ukraine” in violation of ceasefire agreements signed last week in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

“Russia’s actions have been destabilizing throughout the region,” Warren said, but Pentagon officials added that there were no immediate plans to change U.S. policy against supplying weapons to Ukraine despite repeated pleas from the Kiev government. [Continue reading…]

IndagoThe combat performance of the U.S. military’s small unmanned aircraft systems during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has inspired international market interest in the technologies, Lockheed officials said.

There continues to be strong interest from militaries around the world in small, hand-launched, high-endurance UAS with electro-optical/infrared imaging technology, Jay McConville, Lockheed’s director of business development for UAS told reporters in January.

“There is still a robust military market for small UAS. We’re getting a lot of requests for demonstrations all the time. Everyone around the world saw how valuable these assets were in our latest conflicts. Everybody wants them,” he said.

For example, the U.S. Army had great success identifying insurgents, protecting convoys and seeing over small mountains in Iraq and Afghanistan using the small, hand-launched UAS called the RQ-11B Raven UAS with a digital data link.  [Continue reading…]

A new classFewer than 10 U.S. Air Force drone pilots are slated to receive this year a new $1,500 bonus designed to address a personnel shortage in the highly stressed workforce, an official said.

The low number confirms what operators of the MQ-1 Predator and other remotely piloted aircraft suspected about the increased financial incentive — that it would only target a select number of experienced airmen.

The Air Force last month announced it was more than doubling monthly incentive pay from $650 to $1,500 for RPA pilots who have finished a six-year service commitment.

The move — which doesn’t apply to those with less experience — is a temporary fix until officials can change the policy to offer them aviation continuation pay of as much as $25,000 a year, like they do with pilots of manned aircraft, officials said. [Continue reading…]

/Users/Photo2/Desktop/IPTC.IPTThe Navy and Raytheon have completed simulated target tracking with a new, more-sensitive radar slated to deploy on destroyers by 2023.

Early versions of the Navy’s new Air and Missile Defense Radar, or AMDR, closed what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations, Raytheon officials said.

“You put in simulated radar data – raw radar data. Then you process that data to acquire the target and close the track loop on that. It is sort of the full womb to tomb in the data signal processing world,” Tad Dickenson, director and program manager for AMDR, Raytheon, told Military​.com.

Radar works by sending a series of electro-magnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed or distance of the object encountered. More sensitive radar such as AMDR will therefore enable ships to detect smaller objects at greater distances and provide a higher degree of detailed information about objects.

The development of the radar system is hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Dickenson added.

“Code is very portable in today’s environment. We’re using common software languages now,” he said.

Software development for AMDR is being done through what Raytheon describes as an “agile” process, meaning it is built incrementally in order to keep pace with rapid technological advances and integrate effectively with existing and future systems, Dickenson explained.

The initial plan is to put AMDR on at least 22 DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. However, the technology is designed to be scalable and it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers and other platforms as well.

In fact, the Navy released a formal request to industry for information about new and emerging radar technologies for amphibs and carriers early last year.

AMDR is said to be at least 30-times more sensitive than radars currently configured on existing DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Raytheon and Navy officials told Military​.com.

The new radar uses a chemical compound semi-conductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.

“We utilize Gallium Nitride technology. It is extremely efficient so we are able to make a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption,” Dickenson added. “Gallium Nitride has a much higher break down voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities.”

Among other things, the additional power and sensitivity will allow the ship to detect a much wider range of threats at much greater distances, Capt. Mark Vandroff, program manager DDG 51 Shipbuilding, told Military​.com last month in an interview.

“I can see a target that is half the size, twice as far away. What this means is an individual destroyer will be able to engage more ballistic missiles at the same time versus what you have today — and it will be able to engage more advanced threats because it can see them farther away,” Vandroff said. “It can see smaller objects farther away so it will be better at picking out what is a threat versus what is not a threat.”

The AMDR platform, being developed by Raytheon through an October 2013 Engineering and Manufacturing Development, or EMD, deal with the Navy, will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers, Vandroff explained.

Raytheon is currently operating under a $400 million cost plus incentive fee contract for EMD, with about $1.2 billion fixed price incentive for initial production of AMDR on 9 ships.

Construction and integration of the first AMDR systems on Flight III DDG 51s is slated to begin by 2016. Vandroff said he expects the new radar to be operational and ready for combat missions on destroyers by 2023.

In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a Navy capabilities development document, Vandroff said. However, the actual number may vary depending upon the development of new technologies and prospects for a new surface combatant in 10 years.

Earlier this month, the Navy and Raytheon successfully completed an AMDR hardware critical design review, a process which helped establish a baseline design for the platform.

“We now have a lockdown hardware design for all the components that are going to support the radar. We have a design and a plan for the radar itself, for the computers that are going to control it, for the power units that will provide power to it and for the cooling system that will cool it,” Vandroff said.

AMDR is being engineered to integrate with Aegis radar combat systems currently on destroyers and cruisers, Dickenson said.

“We’re working hand in hand with Lockheed Martin in developing the combat systems interface to optimize the interface with Aegis,” he explained.

The AMDR is being engineered to be easily reparable with replaceable parts, fewer circuit boards and cheaper components than previous radars. The AMDR is designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts. The Navy has finished one of four planned software builds for the AMDR system.

However, special technological adaptations will be necessary to ensure the new, larger radar system can be sufficiently cooled and powered up with enough electricity, Vandroff added.

Regarding electricity, the Navy recently awarded a competitive contract to DRS technologies to build power conditioning modules – systems designed to turn the ship’s on-board electrical power into 1000-volt DC power for the AMDR, Vandroff explained.

The first power conditioning modules are slated for land-based testing at a Navy facility in Philadelphia in 2017.

“This is risk reduction so that before I take the system to sea, I have had it thoroughly wrung it out on land,” Vandroff said.

The DDG Flight III’s will also be built with the same Rolls Royce power turbine engineered for the DDG 1000, yet designed with some special fuel-efficiency enhancements.

The AMDR will also need to be equipped with specially configured cooling technology; along these lines, the Navy is developing a new 300-ton AC cooling plant slated to replace the existing 200-ton AC plant, Vandroff explained.

“The prototype refrigeration unit tested last week in York, Pa., was able to produce 350-tons of refrigeration, so it is actually more efficient than we had been banking on,” he added.

The Navy anticipates having a cooling unit prototype within one year. The new cooling plant will need to undergo environmental testing which will assess how the unit is able to tolerate vibration, noise and shocks such as those generated by an underwater explosion.

In the middle of next year, Raytheon and the Navy plan to be finished with a full-phase production representative AMDR array which will be shipped to Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii for additional testing and development.