Turkish Aerospace Industries has delivered the first two Anka-S unmanned aircraft systems to the Turkish air force. Each ground station will be able to control up to six unmanned aircraft at long ranges via satellite link. (TAI photo)

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16/02/2018

Nigerian Air Force Inducts Tsaigumi, Its First UAV

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), in its resolve to promote innovation and enhance its Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, today, 15 February 2018, inducted its first indigenous operational Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) nicknamed Tsaigumi. The Tsaigumi UAV, which was produced by NAF Aerospace Engineers in collaboration with UAVision of Portugal, would be used for ISR operations in land and sea domains. It could also be used for policing operations, disaster management, convoy protection, maritime patrol, pipeline and power line monitoring as well as mapping and border patrol duties. In addition, it could be deployed for the protection of wildlife, weather forecast and telecast. Additionally, in the maritime domain, the Tsaigumi UAV could be used for search and rescue, coastal monitoring and patrol of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The UAV, which is capable of day and night operations, has an operational endurance in excess of 10 hours, a service ceiling of 15,000 feet and a mission radius of 100km. It has a maximum take-off weight of 95kg and its payload is an electro-optic/infra-red camera system. In his remarks at the induction ceremony, the Special Guest of Honour, President Muhammadu Buhari, praised the leadership of the NAF, under Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for the unprecedented feat it had attained in Research and Development (R&D). According to President Buhari, the drive, determination and unwavering support of the NAF leadership brought about numerous significant innovations, not least of which is the Tsaigumi UAV. He added that the attainment of the technological feat is an indication that Nigeria has the needed potential to surmount other technological needs. The President noted that UAVs are an essential feature of modern armed forces. He therefore considered it most gratifying that the NAF had gone a step further than simply acquiring them, to developing UAV capabilities with indigenous technology. “Indeed, this outstanding accomplishment holds promise of both military and economic benefits to the nation. From the military perspective, the added capacity for ISR provided by Tsaigumi UAV would undoubtedly boost ongoing and future security operations”, the President added. The President noted that as soon as the NAF UAV project moves into the next stage of mass production, it would create employment opportunities and generate revenue as Nigeria’s first military export product. He therefore commended the NAF for the accomplishment and urged it not to rest on its oars but to strive harder in its R&D efforts for greater innovation. President Buhari then promised his administration’s support towards the attainment of greater technological milestones for the nation. In his welcome address, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar reiterated the commitment of the NAF to R&D so as to develop unprecedented capacity to surmount current and emerging security challenges. The CAS explained that the newly produced Tsaigumi UAV possesses certain salient physical and performance parameters, which position it as an efficient tool for curbing Internal Security challenges. The CAS posited that history and modern experience attest to the role of the military in bringing about innovations that have revolutionized not just warfare capability but human capacity as a whole. “Indeed, many of the technologies that enhance human life and safety today emerged from R&D; radar, jet engines, satellite tracking, digital photography, Internet and others”, the CAS added. According to the CAS, today’s feat would have been impossible if not for the unflinching financial support that the Service has continued to receive from the Federal Government. Air Marshal Abubakar added that the NAF would not rest on its oars regarding R&D. Accordingly, having achieved enhanced ISR capability, the next step for the NAF is to perfect the development of another UAV nicknamed “Ichoku”, which would be the first indigenous Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). The President who was highly impressed with the innovation later unveiled the UAV to the delight of invited guests. He was thereafter led on a guided tour of other recent and ongoing NAF R&D projects, which were on display. The projects included the Mi-Helicopter Gunship’s Hydraulic Accumulator Diaphragm, SB Abubakar Aviation Power Pack, Unmanned Ground Vehicle and F4 Rocket Launcher Heat Shield Cone. Also on display was NAFSA Eagle Aircraft, an 8-passenger multi role aircraft that was locally designed and being manufactured at the Air Force Research and Development Centre to fulfil a variety of roles in the NAF. It would be recalled that the NAF overtime has developed the capacity of its personnel across different facets of aerospace engineering. These trained engineers in collaboration with other organizations and institutions, both home and abroad, have worked assiduously to improve NAF operations through design, development and innovation. It is through these efforts that the NAF aerospace engineers successfully produced the indigenous operational Tsaigumi UAV. Tsaigumi UAV is a much more advanced and operationalized version of the earlier produced Amebo and Gulma UAV prototypes. The event was witnessed by several senior government officials and political leaders, one of who was His Excellency, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State. Governor El-Rufai immediately expressed the willingness and readiness of Kaduna State to procure some Tsaigumi UAV from the NAF, once available. -ends-
16/02/2018

US Air Force Looks Back on MQ-1 Predator Career

CREECH AFB, Nev. --- The MQ-1 Predator is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft flown by aircrew assigned to the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech and units around the world. It has contributed to the U.S. warfighting efforts in unprecedented ways and is scheduled to sunset on March 9, 2018 as the Air Force transitions to an all MQ-9 Reaper force. With the introduction of aerial warfare, countries all over the world raced to the skies to gain tactical advantage over their adversaries. Devices such as balloons were used in early conflict for reconnaissance and, while the thought of such technology seems primitive today, that same pursuit of aerial superiority ultimately inspired the MQ-1. An initial unarmed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-1 version of the Predator first deployed and operated out of Albania in July 1995. That same month the Air Force activated the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, Nevada as Air Combat Command’s first Predator unit. The 11th RS took operational control of the deployed RQ-1 at Taszar, Hungary in the fall of 1996. Joined in Indian Springs by the 15th RS in the summer of 1997, deployed members of these units flew the Predator’s first combat missions over the Balkans in 1999 to provide ISR for U.S. and coalition strike aircraft under Operation Allied Force. Over the years the RQ-1 had its fair share of growing pains before Airmen were able to tap into its full potential. During early RQ-1 deployments, several aircraft were destroyed due to infrastructure problems or surface-to-air missiles. Through trial and error, aircrews employed innovative thinking which led to the transformation of the RPA mission and it highlighted what crews brought to the fight. “Airmen retrofitted helicopter missile pylons onto the Predator,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher, former superintendent of the 726th Operations Group. Additional examples of innovation included when Airmen switched to a turbo engine, making the aircraft more dependable flying at high altitudes and adding sophisticated pods, to include hyperspectral technology. Airmen flew unarmed Predators from Sept. 18, 2001 until Oct. 7 of the same year, after which aircrew flew the Predator’s first armed mission as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The aircraft continued to undergo modifications after it became strike-capable. “The mighty MQ-1 may not be fast, but our proficient aircrews and support personnel capitalized on its new capabilities to deliver unmatched persistence, exceptional reconnaissance, and precision attack to combatant commanders worldwide,” said Col. Julian C. Cheater, 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander. “I believe the employment of MQ-1s helped shape a new type of warfare, where dangerous enemies of the U.S. and its coalition partners have no sanctuary.” In 2003, a new tactic was developed. The RPA enterprise called it “remote-split operations,” and it changed how RPAs were flown. In this new capability, RSO used satellites to send signals to the aircraft once airborne, allowing crews to fly missions from anywhere in the world. The Predator showcased its new capabilities during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Air Combat Command fielded yet another modification within the RPA community in 2004 called the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver, or ROVER for short. ROVER allowed ground forces to see real-time video feeds from Predators overhead via a portable tablet, it resulted in greater situational awareness which ultimately saved lives. As Airmen proved the MQ-1’s strike proficiency and senior leaders recognized its lethality, the demand for RPAs grew. In 2006, the Air Force responded by introducing the MQ-9 Reaper RPA as the Predator’s successor. The MQ-9 could fly faster, climb higher and was optimized for combat with more weapons capacity. One year later, ACC activated the 432nd WG at Creech to oversee RPA operations and training worldwide. As RPA involvement in conflicts grew, the community expanded, standing up more active-duty units along with its first Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. In 2011, the MQ-1 and MQ-9 enterprise achieved a monumental milestone. Aircrew flew 1 million combat hours. That year also marked the start of the MQ-1’s involvement in Operation Odyssey Dawn during the Libyan civil war and the end of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. Just two years after completing 1 million hours, the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircrew flew 2 million combat flight hours, highlighting the demand for RPA operations and support. “Between the Predators and Reapers alone, we have 303 aircraft, and we are now approaching 2.5 million [flight] hours, of which 90 percent has been in combat,” said James Clark in a 2014 interview, the then ISR innovation director who now serves as deputy chief of staff for ISR, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. In 2014, the enterprise began executing operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. During this coalition effort, MQ-1s, alongside MQ-9s, played a key role in liberating cities from the oppression of terrorism. In late 2017, Combined Joint Task Force OIR declared ISIS defeated. Airmen of the 432nd WG flew more than 12,000 sorties in 2017 alone, equaling approximately 216,000 flight hours which resulted in 2.7 million Iraqis and 715,000 Syrians returning to ISIS-free homes. In 1945, in a post-World War II address, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, U.S. Army Air Forces commander said, “We have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes. The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all... It will be different from anything the world has ever seen.” Arnold never had the chance to see the MQ-1 Predator or the MQ-9 Reaper in action, but as the Commander of the 432nd WG said, “Our success employing the Predator reflects the amazing teamwork with our industry partners, coalition friends, joint forces and our Airmen to realize Gen Arnold’s prediction. Together we have found innovative ways to employ a remotely piloted, propeller-driven aircraft in the modern era to protect Americans and our way of life.” -ends-
15/02/2018

European MALE Drone Passes System Requirements Review

The European MALE RPAS (Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) has successfully passed its System Requirements Review (SRR) in January 2018. The successful SRR also initiates the second phase of the definition study, which will lead to a consolidated preliminary design. The current review ensures that operational requirements of involved Air Forces are properly transferred into top-level system requirements. The resulting documentation is the basis for the mutual understanding of the system requirements between OCCAR, the Co-Contracting Group (Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo s.p.a.) and the Participating States Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The following System Preliminary Design Review is scheduled by the end of this year. Preparations for the next stage (development, production and initial in-service support) are already well under way. The entry into service of European MALE RPAS is planned for the middle of the next decade. -ends-
15/02/2018

Aerial Drone Swarms Are the Next-Gen Military Weapon

During the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, a spectacular pre-recorded display by a quadcopter drone swarm comprising of 1218 drones left spectators astounded. Through co-ordinated and pre-programmed flying, the drone swarm made dynamic aerial caricatures depicting a gyrating snowboarder, a flying bird, Olympic insignia, etc. The drones were individually connected via radio frequencies (RF) to a central computer, which controlled the movement and position of each drone to form the dynamic shapes. This display was carried out by Intel using its ‘Shooting Star’ drones, each of which is about a foot long, weighs approximately 250 grams, and is powered by lithium ion batteries that could keep it in the air for about 20 minutes. This is, however, not the first time that such a display has occurred. Such swarm displays have been presented on earlier occasions as well, albeit with fewer drones. Not only have artists and aero-modellers been enthused by the immense entertainment possibilities drone swarms present, but their possible use in war has been churning in the minds of military and security strategists. Some concepts are already being tried against adversary forces and installations as well as in counter terror operations. One significant incident in this regard came to light on January 11, when Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced on its Facebook page a swarm drone attack on a Russian military base in Syria. Some media organisations declared this as the first ever drone swarm attack. Excerpts from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defence Facebook page read as follows: “Russian Khmeimim air base and Russian Naval CSS point in the city of Tartus successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massed application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the night of 5th – 6th January, 2018. Ten assault drones were seen approaching the Khmeimim air base, and another three – the CSS point in Tartus. Six small-size of these were intercepted and taken under control by the Russian EW units [sic]. Three of them were landed on the controlled area outside the base, and another three UAVs exploded as they touched the ground [sic]. Seven UAVs were eliminated by the Pantsir-S Russian anti-aircraft missiles. The Russian bases did not suffer any casualties or damages. “Having decoded the data recorded on the UAVs, the specialists found out the launch site. It was the first time when terrorists applied a massed drone aircraft attack launched from a range of more than 50 km using modern GPS guidance system. Technical examination of the drones showed that such attacks could be undertakens [sic] by terrorists from a distance of about 100 kilometers.” The Ministry attached photographs of the attacker drones, which were fixed wing aeromodels. Russian experts found on examination of the drones that these were sophisticated and professionally assembled, and could have been received from one of the technologically advanced countries (hinting probably at the US). The drones had satellite navigation electronics and carried professionally assembled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as weapons which could be dropped at the assigned coordinates. All the drones were fitted with pressure transducers and altitude control servo-actuators, indicating the sophistication of the technology employed.2 Though this attack appeared to have the numbers of a swarm, whether this was a classical coordinated drone swarm attack is not very clear. Since the last few years, security analysts have been saying that a swarm drone attack by terrorists was no more an ‘if’ situation, but a ‘when’ and ‘where’ situation. This incident probably represents the dawn of drone swarm attacks. (end of excerpt) Click here for the full report (8 PDF pages) on the IDSA website. -ends-
14/02/2018

Israeli Air Force to Expand Unmanned Aircraft Division

In the upcoming decade, the RPAV Division is due to make a number of significant changes – increasing its number of operators and missions, while maintaining its significant part in the IAF’s operational activity. The RPAV Division has grown over the past years, integrating various missions. Some of the division's capabilities known to the public include air support, direction of attack aircraft, reconnaissance and surveillance in all theatres. In May of 2016, an RPAV Division multiyear plan was approved, due to outline the division’s activity over the upcoming decade. The IAF has begun to implement the program, which is due to bring about a series of changes to the entire IAF. "We expect the entire division to move forward and progress, from personnel, through aircraft and systems, to infrastructure", said Brig. Gen. N’, Commander of Palmahim AFB. "The number of RPAV operators in the IAF will grow and new squadrons will be established". Mapping the Future The multiyear plan is a long-term program meant to optimize the IAF’s progress and assure coherent force build-up and operation. "After certain goals were set, we mapped out the ways we could achieve them as comprehensively as possible in five years' time. The program creates a type of road map, which is made up of relatively small goals that will make a big difference", explained Maj. Y’, Head of the RPAV Unit. The program deals with various issues: personnel, operations, maintenance, instruction, organization and infrastructure. A Very Quick Pace The division's manpower, number of aircraft and capabilities are due to increase significantly. There will be a large increase in the RPAV and Surveillance Division's operational flight hours, and new RPAV squadrons will be established over the next seven years. While aspiring to strengthen the RPAV division, the operational reality requires the IAF to maintain a flexible range of capabilities. As a result, the IAF will continue operating manned and unmanned aerial systems. "Every division has a ‘road-map’ or multiyear plan", said Brig. Gen. N’. "The RPAV Division's need for such a plan is twofold. The division is progressing at a very quick pace, becoming more and more significant with each passing year. Therefore, our need for a comprehensive multiyear plan is critical. We revalidate the plan every six months while constantly integrating new systems". The RPAV Division is responsible for one third of the IAF's flight hours and two thirds of its operational flight hours. More by more, significant missions previously performed by manned platforms are being performed by unmanned systems. For instance, reconnaissance missions performed currently performed by “Kukia” (Beechcraft King Air B-200) light transport aircraft will be performed by “Eitan” (Heron TP) RPAVs. As the responsibility for maritime patrol, which was once performed by "Shachaf" (Sea Scan), was assumed by "Shoval" (Heron 1) RPAVs. Growing Strong "As a result of its growth, the RPAV Division needs more operators. In two to three years, we will need more people than the Flight Academy is able to provide us with", predicted Lt. Col. L’, Commander of the RPAV Academy. The number of RPAV operators is expected to double over the next ten years, and the number of cadets in the RPAV Academy will increase by 70%. "The operators of the next decade will be no different to today's operators", clarified Brig. Gen. N'. "They will perform similar missions, and only the weapons systems will be different and more advanced. The quality of personnel will determine the final result in every mission". Instructional Advancement Less than 30% of the RPAV Division's flight hours are flown in training sorties. As part of the multiyear plan, the division aspires to reach its goal of 90% by upgrading simulators, establishing a Mission Training Center, and forming a designated multiyear plan for the RPAV Division's simulators. "Instruction in the RPAV Division will be greatly influenced by the multiyear plan", elaborated Brig. Gen. Nimrod. "We will integrate designated platforms, as well as simulators meant to enable better instruction. There is great hidden potential in the field of simulators. When most of the division's flight hours will be flown in the simulators, we will be able to focalize the use of RPAVs on operational sorties". "I have no doubt that RPAVs will be more and more significant as time goes by – not just for the IAF but for the entire world", concluded Brig. Gen. Nimrod. "We strive to be the best in the RPAV field. Many countries around the world arrive at the RPAV Academy to learn about instruction and operation. They come to Israel because we perform daily operational sorties. With this cooperation, we not only teach, but learn as well". -ends-
14/02/2018

BAE Systems Flight-Tests Semi-Autonomous Software

BAE Systems has developed automated, on-board software that enhances mission effectiveness. Today, combat missions are a manual, coordinated effort by operators and pilots using a combination of manned and unmanned vehicles, sensors, and electronic warfare systems that all rely on high-availability networks such as satellite communications and tactical data links. When those networks are interrupted, it leaves warfighters with the inability to effectively communicate and avoid threats during their missions. To solve this challenge, we’ve developed cutting-edge, semi-autonomous software in a category called Distributed Battle Management (DBM), which is the process of providing timely and relevant information to operators and pilots when communication is not assured, so they can better manage and control air-to-air and air-to-ground combat in contested environments. Our automated, on-board software enhances mission effectiveness by providing warfighters with shared situational understanding, interchangeable roles, coordinated objectives for teams of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles in communications denied environments, and compressed, prioritized data transfer when communications are available. “The lack of automated decision aids severely hinders operators and pilots from making critical decisions with limited communications so they can adapt to combat scenarios,” said David Hiltz, director of the Planning and Control Technologies Directorate at BAE Systems. “Our DBM software delivers these automated decision aids that provide mission execution options and the ability to maintain a consistent mission representation and status across all platforms, which allows warfighters to make better, faster combat decisions to ensure mission safety and completion.” In fact, during an 11-day flight test, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in association with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), successfully demonstrated capabilities for its DBM program for the first time during seven live flights that included a mix of live and simulation runs and simulation-only runs. The test included our Anti-Access Real-time Mission Management System (ARMS) and the Contested Network Environment Situational Understanding System (CONSENSUS). ARMS, a distributed adaptive planning and control software, provides near real-time mission capabilities that allow warfighters to engage air-to-air and air-to-ground targets and search airspace. CONSENSUS is a distributed situational understanding software that provides pilots and operators with weapon targeting guidance and mission awareness through a common operational picture by fusing raw data from multiple platforms and sensors. BAE Systems’ DBM software capabilities build on the company’s autonomous technology innovations, including real-time mission management and multi-intelligence data fusion. This material is based upon work supported by The United States Air Force and Air Force Research Laboratory under Contract FA8750-16-C-0002. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of The United States Air Force and Air Force Research Laboratory. -ends-
14/02/2018

Northrop Launches Test Bed for Darpa’s Swarm-Enabled Program

BALTIMORE --– The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Phase 1 Swarm Systems Integrator for the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. As part of the program, Northrop Grumman will launch its first open architecture test bed and is seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tactics on the platform. Northrop Grumman is teamed with Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and the Interactive Computing Experiences Research Cluster, directed by Dr. Joseph LaViola at the University of Central Florida. As part of the DARPA OFFSET program, Northrop Grumman serves as a swarm systems integrator, tasked with designing, developing and deploying a swarm-system, open-based architecture for swarm technologies in both a game-based environment and physical test bed. The team has been tasked to produce tactics and technologies to test on the architecture and is responsible for engaging a wider development and user audience through rapid technology-development exercises known as “swarm sprints.” Approximately every six months, DARPA plans to solicit proposals from potential “sprinters” in one of five thrust areas: swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment and physical test bed. Participants from academia, small business and large corporations are invited to join in these swarm sprints. Sprinters will work with the integration team to create and test their own novel swarm tactics within the test bed environment. The end of each sprint will coincide with live physical test experiments with DARPA, the systems integrator team and other sprinters. The goal of the OFFSET program is to provide small-unit infantry forces with small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) or small unmanned ground systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 or more robots that support diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET seeks to advance the integration of modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming. “Cognitive autonomy has the potential to transform all defense and security systems. OFFSET will explore a variety of applications in relevant mission scenarios,” said Vern Boyle, vice president, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. “We are applying cutting-edge technologies in robotics, robot autonomy, machine learning and swarm control to ultimately enhance our contributions to the warfighter.” Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. -ends-
13/02/2018

Drones and the European Union: Prospects for a Common Future

The debate over the use of drones is an opportunity for states to identify elements of military practice that their publics find uncomfortable or troubling, and to explain these areas of military operations in context. Summary -- The debate over the use of drones is an opportunity for states to identify elements of military practice that their publics find uncomfortable or troubling, and to explain these areas of military operations in context. -- Countries would benefit from working together to identify accountability gaps arising from fundamental elements of military cooperation, including the role of intelligence transfers in joint operations, and the distribution of responsibility for lethal actions in the context of coalition operations. -- Transparency in investigation procedures, as well as devoting sufficient resources towards ensuring that mistakes are identified, will improve the perception of drone use among domestic audiences. -- Identifying and communicating common standards and practices of mitigating complicity should be a priority for countries to ensure that they do not unwittingly become complicit in unlawful lethal operations. -- Although operational safety may hinder the ability of states to be completely transparent, understanding among the general public could be improved through the communication of policies and procedures regarding non-lethal assistance to partner states conducting lethal operations, both inside and outside the context of an armed conflict. Click here for the full report (24 PDF pages), on the Chatham House website. -ends-
13/02/2018

China Reveals Another Long-Range Armed UAV

China’s top aircraft research center on Monday announced the successful test flight of the country’s newest stealth drone, a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that can fly under the radar. According to a WeChat account affiliated with China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the main contractor and research center for the Chinese program, the stealth drone, dubbed “Tianying,” successfully conducted three test flights, four years after the drone program was first initiated. “Eighty percent of our drone’s technologies are the newest and most advanced, some of which are leading the global [drone] industry,” Ma Hongzhong, chief designer of the Tianying stealth drone, was quoted as saying by the WeChat account. Ma noted that the all advanced technologies used on the drone have gone through countless ground tests, while all design parameters have been thoroughly calculated and double-checked. The WeChat account did not reveal further details of the new drone, nor post any pictures of it as of press time. China successfully flew its first stealth drone in 2013. The maiden flight of “Sharp Sword” made China the fourth global power to put a stealth drone into the sky after the U.S., UK, EU. -ends-
13/02/2018

China Sees Major Opportunities for Its CH Armed Drone

China's new generation solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Caihong (CH), or Rainbow, has successfully run a live-ammunition test under extreme environmental conditions recently, said the Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute (No. 11 Institute) under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) on January 31. The CH UAV project team told the Global Times in February that the enhanced variant of the CH-4 conducted a six-day intensive bombing test for the first time in Northwest China under extreme weather conditions including blizzards and darkness in January. The new CH drone has a better loading and power supply capability, and due to its multiple mount points design, it can carry a mixture of weapons and can shoot different types of guided missiles under different weather conditions, meeting the standards of a surgical strike, said the research team. For example, it can guide 50-kilogram cluster bombs in order to effectively complete missions including regional blockades and attacks on enemy airports. The 50-kilogram satellite-guided bombs can also deal a deadly blow on the enemy position from higher airspace, while the 100-kilogram satellite-guided weapon can launch surprise attacks on targets from more than 10 kilometers away. More compatible Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and a TV commentator, highlighted the new CH vehicle's high compatibility with different types of guided weapons on February 4, saying this kind of advantage could win China a more promising international market share in the field of UAV. The effectiveness of all guided weapons, whether they are laser- or satellite- guided, can be seriously affected by weather conditions such as smog or jamming efforts from the enemy. However, as the CH new model can carry various types of weapons, it can break through these limits and work well anywhere in all weathers, Song explained. The results of the January live-round test has proven that the new CH UAV has met design and ammunition standards, said the research team, adding that the new technologies on the tested UAV will be applied to the next generation of CH-4C drones in the future. China's CH UAV, the country's first near-space solar drone, successfully conducted a flight at an altitude of 20 km in June 2017, Xinhua News Agency reported. The project team under CASC announced after the event on June 13 that the CH UAV flew smoothly in near space for over 15 hours through remote control, completing its scheduled path before landing securely. Near space, which lies 20 to 100 km above sea level, contains thin air that reduces the performance of traditional fuel-powered aircraft engines. However, solar drones like the CH UAV can perform well in this region and is able to fly continuously for months or even longer in the future, said Li Guangjia, director of the project. Cost efficient The CH UAV, with a wingspan of 45 meters and equipped with solar panels, boasts a high cost efficiency as it does not require refueling during long-term missions, said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the project. The CH UAV will perform as a "quasi-satellite" in the future, and has the ability to supplant some functions of telecommunication satellites in providing data relay services, Xinhua News Agency reported in June 2017. It is also expected to be used as "an airborne mobile Wi-Fi hub" to provide convenient mobile telecommunication and Internet access for remote areas and islands, saving on the huge construction and maintenance costs involved in traditional communication means. The UAV will also be capable of forestry and agricultural surveying as well as early warning and real-time monitoring of natural disasters. "In earthquake, flood or forest fire situations where telecommunications are cut off, the drones may provide services to maintain communication with the affected areas," Shi said. China's CH series drones have been sold to militaries in more than 10 countries including Pakistan and Turkmenistan, making it the largest drone family the country has exported. -ends-

Analysis and Background

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28/07/2017

Autonomous Military Drones: No Longer Science Fiction

The possibility of life-or-death decisions someday being taken by machines not under the direct control of humans needs to be taken seriously. Over the last few years we have seen a rapid development in the field of drone technology, with an ever-increasing degree of autonomy. While no approved autonomous drone systems are operational, as far as we know, the technology is being tested and developed. Some see the new opportunities and potential benefits of using autonomous drones, others consider the development and use of such technology as inherently immoral. Influential people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have already urged a ban on warfare using autonomous weapons or artificial intelligence. So, where do we stand, and what are the main legal and ethical issues? Towards autonomous drones As yet, there is no agreed or legal definition of the term "autonomous drones". Industry uses the “autonomy” label extensively, as it gives an impression of very modern and advanced technology. However, several nations have a more stringent definition of what should be called autonomous drones, for example, the United Kingdom describes them as “…capable of understanding higher level intent and direction” (UK MoD, The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 2011). Generally, most military and aviation authorities call unmanned aerial vehicles "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" (RPAs) to stress that they fly under the direct control of human operators. Most people would probably understand the concept of “autonomous drones” as something sophisticated, for instance, drones that can act based on their own choice of options (what is commonly defined as "system initiative" and "full autonomy" in military terminology). Such drones are programmed with a large number of alternative responses to the different challenges they may meet in performing their mission. This is not science fiction – the technology is largely developed though, to our knowledge, no approved autonomous drone systems are yet operational. The limiting factor is not the technology but rather the political will to develop or admit to having such politically sensitive technology, which would allow lethal machines to operate without being under the direct control of humans. One of the greatest challenges for the development and approval of aircraft with such technology is that it is extremely difficult to develop satisfactory validation systems, which would ensure that the technology is safe and acts like humans would. In practice, such sophisticated drones would involve programming for an incredible number of combinations of alternative courses of action, making it impossible to verify and test them to the level we are used to for manned aircraft. There are also those who think of autonomy meaning ”artificial intelligence” – systems that learn and even self-develop possible courses of action to new challenges. We have no knowledge that we are close to a breakthrough on such technology, but many fear that we actually might be. Autonomous drones – meaning advanced drones programmed with algorithms for countless human-defined courses of action to meet emerging challenges – are already being tested by a number of civilian universities and military research institutions. We see testing of “swarms of drones” (drones which follow and take tasks from other drones) that, of course, are entirely dependent on autonomous processing. We also see testing of autonomous drones that operate with manned aircraft, all from what the US Air Force calls (unmanned) "Loyal Wingman" aircraft, to the already well tested Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system of Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned TRITON aircraft. We also see the further development of unmanned systems to be dispatched from manned aircraft, to work independently or in extension of the “mother aircraft”, for instance, the recently tested PERDIX nano drones, of which 100 drones were dropped from a F-18 “mother aircraft”. Such drones would necessarily operate with a high degree of autonomy. These many developments and aspirations are well described in, for example, the US planning document USAF RPA Vector - Vision and Enabling Concepts 2013-2038 published in 2014, and other documentation and even videos of such research are widely available. The prospects of autonomous technology, be it flying drones, underwater vehicles or other lethal weapon systems, clearly bring new opportunities for military forces. In the case of flying aircraft, we have learned that there are long lead times in educating pilots and operators. One of the greatest changes that will come from the development of autonomous drones is that military forces in the (near) future could develop great fighting power in much shorter timeframes than previously. It is important to note – and many have – that creating the infrastructure and educating ground crew for operating drones is no cheaper or easier than it is to educate aircrew. However, once in place, the drone crew and operation centres would be able to operate large numbers of drones. Similarly, legacy manned aircraft would be at the centre of a local combat or intelligence system extended with drones serving, for example, in supportive roles for jamming, as weapons-delivery platforms or as a system of multi-sensor platforms. Moving beyond the past limitations of one pilot flying one aircraft or one crew flying one drone to a situation where one crew could control large amounts of drones would quite simply be groundbreaking. These perspectives for new types of high-tech weapon systems – and the fears they raise – are the background for the research we conducted on autonomous drones and weapon systems. It is almost impossible to assess when these technologies will become widespread – this will depend on the situation and the need of states. However, the technologies are becoming available and are maturing and we would argue that the difficult discussions on legal and ethical challenges should be dealt with sooner, rather than later. The legal perspectives General rules apply but it is not that simple Autonomous drones, if and when they are used during armed conflict, would be subject to the general principles and rules of the Law of Armed Conflict. In this respect, autonomous drones are not to be distinguished from any other weapons, weapon systems or weapon platforms. As with any “means of warfare”, autonomous drones must only be directed at lawful targets (military objectives and combatants) and attacks must not be expected to cause excessive collateral damage. (end of excerpt) Click here for the full story, on the NATO website. -ends-
04/05/2017

Russia Works to Restore Positions In Drone Development

Unmanned aviation is a dynamically developing industry of modern aircraft construction. Technical and technological achievements boosted the design of new systems. At present drones are engaged by many armies of the world and used in armed conflicts. Our country used to have considerable achievements in the sphere and now works to restore its positions, expert Denis Fedutinov writes in the official blog of the United Aircraft Corporation. MOSCOW --- The former Soviet Union enjoyed a major experience in drone development also in the tactical class. Until recently the Russian army had old Strizh and Reis systems developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau yet in the 1970s and the Stroi-P complex with remote controlled Pchela craft designed by Kulon Research Institute and the Yakovlev bureau in late 1980s. Unfortunately, the economic plight of the transition period in the 1990s stalled the work. The initial pace was lost as a result, the designs got obsolete, the existing technical and scientific experience in the sphere was lost and the country began to considerably lag behind leading foreign producers. The interest in drones revived in Russia in mid-2000s mostly due to the effort of private companies which initiated some steps to create mostly small-class craft. The Russian defense ministry kept displaying little interest in drones for some years. The guideline was however supported by law enforcement agencies - the interior ministry, the Federal Security Service (including the Border Service) and the emergencies ministry. In early and mid-2000s the orders of the defense ministry for the design of domestic drones were very modest. The latest system in the arsenal of the Russian military was tactical Stroi-P with remote controlled Pchela craft designed at the end of the Soviet epoch. In the 1990s the system became morally outdated. In early 2000s the Kulon Institute of the Vega Concern upgraded the complex to Stroi-PD version. The Rybinsk-based Luch Design Bureau of the Vega designed another tactical Tipchak craft. As in the case of Stroi-PD the funds were appropriated mostly for R&D. The Vega Concern and the defense ministry signed a contract for the delivery of one such complex a year which was an absolutely symbolic action. Problems caused by the absence of modern reconnaissance and surveillance drones were exposed by the 2008 situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The defense ministry tried to engage available drones but none of them was capable of fulfilling the mission. The Russian troops were actually blinded. In contrast the Georgian military efficiently engaged the drones bought from the Israeli Elbit Systems Company. As for Stroi-PD, it took off with the use of powder boosters which exposed the launch site. The flight itself could not be stealthy because of the noisy two-stroke engine. The Russian military also complained about the noisy Tipchak tactical drone designed by Vega. It was created in the Luch Design Bureau in Rybinsk. Former Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said the drone was engaged in the operation in South Ossetia and performed poorly. Besides noise problems, the quality of reconnaissance data was low because of the line TV camera which failed to produce images corresponding to modern requirements. Besides, there were also problems with friend-or-foe system. The developments around the conflict with Georgia became the threshold which made the Russian defense ministry urgently take measures to rectify the stagnant situation with modern drones for the national armed forces. Initially foreign designs were purchased, as well as available systems of domestic companies. R&D to create perspective craft was launched. The first step was the purchase of drones from Israel which is the world leader in the sphere and then an additional batch of drones was assembled in Russia. Plans to buy Israeli drones were first voiced in November 2008 by General Chief-of-Staff Nikolai Makarov. As a result, the defense ministry acquired short-range Bird-Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher Mk II of the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). According to the contract signed in 2011, the drones were assembled in Russia by the UZGA Works in Yekaterinburg under Zastava and Forpost brands correspondingly. Major modernization and localization of tactical Forpost production is being considered. The drone is to get some domestically-produced systems, including a secured communications line and state system of identification, as well as GLONASS-based navigational system, radio-technical reconnaissance and data transmission devices, digital aerial survey system and lateral visibility radar. (ends)
12/06/2015

Fly-offs for French Tactical UAV Competition Begin This Month

PARIS --- France’s defense procurement agency will begin the in-flight evaluation of competitors for the future SDT tactical UAV system later this month, allowing selection of the winner by year-end after a second-round review in the fall. The evaluations, each lasting one or two weeks, will take place at Istres air base in south-eastern France. The SDT evaluations will oppose two French companies offering foreign-designed airframes with subsystems and electronics tailored to French needs: Sagem, which is offering its Patroller, and Thales, which is offering the Watchkeeper developed by its British subsidiary, Thales UK, for the British Army. Watchkeeper will be evaluated in late June, and Patroller will follow in early July. Airbus Defence and Space, which had not been invited to bid for the Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) program, submitted an unsolicited offer earlier this year based on the Textron Systems Shadow M2 unmanned system, which it has dubbed Artemis. The company is waiting for feedback from DGA and the French army on its unsolicited offer before making a full-fledged bid. Uncertainties remain as to SDT funding The French army has not specified a number of aircraft or systems, but has defined an operational requirement, leaving industry to come up with proposals on how best to meet it. However, as it now operates 22 Sperwer tactical drones, it is likely that it will ultimately require about 30 Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) aircraft divided into four deployable systems. “The 2014-2019 Military Program Law calls for two complete and deployable SDT systems, comprising 14 operational and training aircraft, to be delivered by 2019,” a DGA spokesman told Defense-Aerospace.com June 10. He added that the competition was formally launched during the fall of 2014, and that it is proceeding as planned, but declined further comment because the competition is ongoing. There are some doubts, given the French air force’s large-scale procurement of Reaper MALE UAVs, the planned development of the Eurodrone 2020 MALE, and the availability of smaller tactical UAVs, whether the French army actually needs to spend so much money to buy large UAVs of its own. “The current worry is that the program might not be completed, as the requirements are very ambitious and demanding, and there is no officially-defined budget,” says a senior official of one of the competing companies. In fact, the SDT program was barely mentioned during May 26 parliamentary hearings on the update to the 2014-2019 defense program law. Gen. Jean-Pierre Bosser, the army chief of staff, simply said that “we expect our current interim SDTs to be replaced by an SDT system,” before moving on to other issues. All three competitors stress the high French content of their offers, the high proportion of production work that will take place in France, and the fact that their solution offers sovereign, autonomous capabilities entirely free of foreign interference, for both operation and support. Sagem, with its Sperwer, is the incumbent; its latest contract was awarded in December 2013, and funded five additional Sperwer systems for delivery in 2015. In addition to those already in service with the 61ème Régiment d’Artillerie, these UAVs will maintain French army capabilities until a replacement enters service by the end of the decade. The three competitors offer three totally different approaches to the French requirement. All three offer broadly similar sensors, but differ notably in their air vehicles, which range from Sagem’s optionally-piloted and self-deployable motor glider; Thales’ updated and “Frenchified” Hermes UAV to the much smaller, and optionally catapult-launched, Shadow M2 planned by Airbus DS. In fact, the difference in size is such that the 250 kg payload of Sagem’s Patroller is heavier than an entire Shadow air vehicle, while at 450 kg empty mass Watchkeeper is less than half as heavy as Patroller. In other words, Watchkeeper is twice as heavy as Artemis, and in turn Patroller is about twice as heavy as Watchkeeper, although they all carry similar types of payloads. Given France’s insistence on maintaining its independent deployment capability, the level of technical and operational sovereignty, and the control of the supply chain, is likely to weigh heavily during the final selection. Watchkeeper Goes French Sagem’s main competitor for the French SDT contract is Thales UK’s Watchkeeper , which was developed from the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 design and adapted to UK requirements. The British Army has ordered 13 Watchkeeper systems, for a total of 54 air vehicles, about 30 of which have been delivered to date. Watchkeeper was deployed by the British Army in Afghanistan. Several aircraft arrived at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in August 2014, and flew its first combat mission on Sept. 16, Lt Col Craig Palmer, the point man for UAVs at British Army HQ, told reporters here June 2. However, it will not attain Full Operational Capability until 2017, he said. Watchkeeper has flown about 500 hours with the British Army, Palmer said, of which 140 hours in Afghanistan and 360 hours from its base in Boscombe Down, in England. British troops prepare a Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle for a mission at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. (UK MoD photo) “Watchkeeper was designed from the outset to generate information superiority [and] its world-class I-Master radar is what is actually adding value. It’s a game-changer” compared to the Hermes, which has no radar, Palmer said. The Watchkeeper variant Thales has offered to France is equipped with mostly French subsystems, including a secure datalink, the same Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS) that Thales developed for Watchkeeper, and Thales’ own electro-optical sensors. For the time being, the French army has been offered a Selex ES surface search radar, but alternate radars can also be fitted. For the French proposal, the joint Elbit/Thales datalink fitted to UK Watchkeeper has been replaced by a Thales-developed TMA/TMG 6000 dual-mode (command and ISR data) datalink, and Thales Executive Vice-President for Telecommunications Marc Darmon says the company has all the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to this product, which is obviously significant for national sovereignty issues. “We bought the source codes and we largely re-wrote them, so we have total control of the system,” says another Thales executive, dismissing concerns that foreign companies are involved in the French Watchkeeper proposal. At present, 80% of Watchkeeper components are British-made, with another 15% coming from France and 5% from the rest of the world, according to Pierrick Lerey, strategy and marketing director for Thales’ UAV and ISR business. The company has formed a French suppliers club (equipefrancewatchkeeper.com) to update Watchkeeper’s main systems, including a new-generation electro-optical payload; a new Communications and ESM payload; a new imagery chain for full HD video; interconnection with the French military C4ISR network, a new ground station and a remote video terminal. The goal, Lerey says, is to bring French content up to at least 35% for the French program, since the Watchkeeper airframe and the (new) ground stations will continue to be built in the UK. Sagem’s Optionally-Piloted Motor Glider While its competitors opted for specific, UAV-sized airframes, Sagem preferred to use a civil-certified airframe for its Patroller, which is almost as large as a MALE drone but offers the advantage of being derived from a German motor glider, the Stemme S-15. Frederic Mazzanti, Sagem Vice-President and head of its Optronics and Defense Division, notes that this means it can self-deploy using civil airspace, that it can be used for training in unsegregated airspace with a pilot on board, and that it does not need tractors or other ground equipment because it was designed to be autonomous on the ground. Patroller’s size also means it offers lots of space for fuel and sensors, and the commercial origin of its airframe means it was designed for simple, straightforward repairs with little tooling, another plus for austere operations. A soldier shows the large sensor ball of Sagem’s Patroller UAV, a large, optionally-piloted aircraft that offers much greater range and payload than its competitors (Sagem photo) Sagem’s offer comprises triplex-redundant avionics, a new fourth-generation Euroflir 41 sensor ball with a 43-cm diameter and fitted with full HD color TV, visible and thermal imaging, and laser rangefinder and designator. Several synthetic aperture radars can be fitted, depending on the customer’s preferences, and several have already been tested. Most importantly, says Mazzanti, Patroller has the capability to operate radar and EO sensors at the same time, and also to transmit their imagery at the same time. This, he notes, is a unique capability in this category, and can multiply an ISR aircraft’s effectiveness by tracking several targets with different sensors at the same time. Most Patroller subsystems and sensors are produced by Sagem itself (EO sensor ball, navigation, datalink) while the others are French-made. Sagem also owns all property rights to the airframe, so the fact that no foreign company is involved guarantees manufacturing and operational sovereignty. With its Sperwer drones, which were operated in Afghanistan by several of the nine countries that have bought it, Sagem gained precious operational experience. The French army’s 22 Sperwers attained an availability rate of 80-85% with support from Sagem. “Our availability in terms of aircraft numbers never fell short of requirements,” Mazzanti said, adding that as operators of the S-15 have logged over 1,000 flight hours per year, there is no reason for Patroller not to attain similar levels. Sagem employs over 100 people at its French plants to build Sperwer drones and its components, and the company also has assembled a cluster of SMEs to which it subcontracts some of the work. All in all, Sagem says that French content of Patroller will attain 85% by value, as only the radar and airframe would be built overseas. With a payload of 250 kg, and a mission endurance of 30 hours, Patroller is a much larger aircraft than its competitors, but Mazzanti dismisses criticism that it may be too large for its intended mission. “It is air-transportable, it fits into a standard 20-foot container, it can land with a 20-knot crosswind and it can pull 5Gs, so its size and robustness are real operational advantages.” Outsider Airbus Teams with Textron Thales and Sagem both “offered large air vehicles that are closer to MALE size, but looking at the French army requirement we thought that a smaller drone, capable of being operated from close to the front line, would be a better match,” an Airbus official said June 9. Instead of offering one of its own UAVs, the company preferred to team with Textron Systems to prepare a bid based on a tried-and-tested UAV that more closely matches the French army requirement, and which is small enough for use at brigade or division, instead of corps, level. LEGENDE: Airbus DS has offered to “Frenchify” Textron’s Shadow to develop its Artemis UAV, which is much smaller than the two SDT competitors and doesn’t need a runway, as it can be launched from a catapult. (US Army photo) Airbus has not yet formally filed a bid, and will only announce its Artemis partnership with Textron next week at the Paris Air Show. The company has so far only submitted an unsolicited proposal to DGA, and is waiting for feedback before deciding whether to invest in a formal and comprehensive proposal. Nonetheless, company officials expect a positive response, and are encouraged by the fact that a team of DGA and French army observers will fly to Yuma, Arizona during the summer for a demonstration of the Shadow M2, which will not fly at Istres. Smaller also means cheaper, and Airbus says its offer – based on Textron Unmanned Systems’ upgraded Shadow M2 – would carry much lower acquisition and operating costs, and thus allow more intensive operations for a given budget, while its small size also facilitates transport and deployment. Shadow is operated by the US Army and Marine Corps and several foreign militaries, and over 300 air vehicles have logged over 1 million flight hours, including in combat. A competitive advantage that Airbus points out is that Shadow’s long service career, and different users, are such that the latest versions benefit from a wealth of technical and operational lessons learned. For Artemis, Airbus would modify the Shadow M2 air vehicle as little as possible to limit costs, but would replace its subsystems or adapt them to French requirements. These would include Airbus’ own Lygarion datalink, a modified ground station, and French sensor packages (radar and either electro-optical or signals intelligence) that are capable of simultaneous operation. Airbus plans to purchase full rights to the Shadow airframe and ground station, and so would control the entire system, ensuring “fully autonomous operations, as well as maximum growth potential, for the French customer,” according to a briefing document. It also says that a “significant” share of production and support – about 60% -- would take place in France, supporting French industry and jobs. In reality, a large share of production would remain in the United States, so French workshare would largely be made up by training and support, in addition to some key subsystems. -ends-
12/03/2015

UAVs: France, Germany and Italy to Launch European MALE Program

PARIS --- Three European nations will sign an agreement at the Paris air show in June to jointly fund initial studies for a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said here March 11. France, Germany and Italy will follow up by awarding a study contract in December to an industry group formed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi. The initial contract is valued at a few dozen millions of euros. Ultimately, if the program progresses as planned, the nations plan to obtain an operational reconnaissance UAV by 2025. “Our effort in the field of surveillance drones and ISR will increase with, already this year, the launch of studies of the future European drone, with Germany and Italy, that France envisions for about 2025, ,” Le Drian said here during a March 11 press conference. An Italian defense official confirmed the agreement, which has not yet been made public in Italy, however adding “we will see whether it ultimately leads to a development program.” The three companies have been calling for such a government initiative for over two years, and in May 2013 took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement calling on their governments to “launch a European MALE program.…to support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding.” The companies have a double goal: to maintain the know-how and expertise of their military aircraft design offices, now that they have mostly completed work on current fighters, and to recover the UAV business that is now going to their US competitors – France and Italy operate General Atomics Predator or Reaper UAVs, like the UK, the Netherlands has just decided to buy some while Spain is also weighing buying some. “Originally, [our] idea was to prevent the procurement of Reaper drones by European governments,” but this didn’t work, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said here during a separate March 11 press conference. “We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and we think we can develop a drone to replace the Reaper, which is an interim solution. We have asked our governments to state that an operational requirement exists, and we will be able to reply to that requirement.” In parallel, France is however continuing to boost its Reaper force, which is seeing intensive use in Africa, where it is supporting French and allied troops operating in Mali. France is due to receive a third Reaper aircraft in April, and will order a follow-on batch of three additional aircraft in August, according to a planning document released by Le Drian. “We are asking for a contract from the three governments covering initial studies,” Trappier said. “Initially, it’s a question of a few dozen million euros, although it will cost more once development is launched.” The three companies set out the details of their proposal in a second joint statement issued in June 2014, in which they proposed “a Definition Phase which has been prepared by joint development teams of Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi and which is backed by an industrial agreement on workshare and a cooperative agreement to start the MALE2020 program.” The broad lines of the industry proposal have been retained, although the initial operational capability has slipped to 2025. One of the trickier problems to be solved is the integration of the future MALE UAV into general air traffic, Trappier said. The inability to fly in unrestricted airspace is one of the reasons for which Germany canceled the EuroHawk program – a variant of Global Hawk fitted with a German sensor package – after spending several hundred million euros on its development. -ends-
23/02/2015

An Introduction to Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Source: Center for New American Security Ref: no reference Issued Feb 13, 2015 23 PDF pages In this working paper, 20YY Warfare Initiative Director Paul Scharre and Adjunct Senior Fellow Michael Horowitz discuss future military systems incorporating greater autonomy. The intent of the paper is to help clarify, as a prerequisite to examining legal, moral, ethical and policy issues, what an autonomous weapon is, how autonomy is already used, and what might be different about increased autonomy in the future. (PDF format) Full text
13/11/2014

UK: Challenges & Opportunities of Drone Security

Source: University of Birmingham Ref: No reference Issued Oct 22, 2014) 96 PDF pages Drone technology, both civil and military, under proper legal regulation, can continue to deliver 'significant benefits' for the UK's national security policy and economy in the coming decades. That is the conclusion of a new University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report which launches today. But the Government, and especially the Ministry of Defence (MoD), should do more to reach out to the public over what the Commission sees as the globally inevitable use of drones in armed conflict and in domestic surveillance. The Report finds that over the next 20 years, drones – or what the Commission and the RAF prefer to call Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – will become an integral part of Britain's aerospace capability, providing both advanced surveillance and precision weapons delivery. They can support UK forces deployed overseas, as in Afghanistan, or help prevent mass atrocities, as with the British Government's decision to deploy the RAF Reaper fleet against the Islamic State (ISIS). This decision was announced after the Report was completed but is entirely consistent with its conclusions. The Report examines the distinctive and unavoidable choices for the United Kingdom over a crucial emerging technology and sets out the under-appreciated distinction between legally constrained British practice and the US Government's cross-border counter-terrorism strikes which dominate and distort UK public debate. The Commission considers various moral arguments and concludes that the current and emerging generation of RPA pose no greater ethical challenges than those already involved in decisions to use any other type of UK military asset. The Report shows clearly that the UK has operated its armed Reapers in Afghanistan according to the same exceptionally strict Rules of Engagement (no weapon should be discharged unless there is 'zero expectation of civilian casualties') that it applies to manned aircraft. Key findings There are three main obstacles affecting the UK Government's use of drones that must be overcome: gaining public understanding and acceptance of the legal and ethical soundness of the practice; allaying fears over the potential development of LAWS; and safeguarding British airspace and the privacy of British citizens if drones are to be increasingly used for domestic surveillance and security. (PDF format) Report’s download page
11/07/2014

UK, France to Launch FCAS Demo Phase

PARIS --- Four years after they first agreed to jointly develop an unmanned combat aircraft, France and Britain will finally launch the demonstration phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) on July 15 at the Farnborough air show, the French defense ministry announced July 10. The two countries’ defense ministers will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) authorizing a 24-month, €150 million definition phase of the FCAS program, known as FCAS-Demonstration Phase, the French defense ministry announced July 10. Contracts will be awarded to industry in the autumn, and the project will officially begin in January 2015. Participating companies are Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems for airframe and systems integration; Thales and Selex ES (UK) for sensors and electronics; and Snecma and Rolls-Royce for engine and power systems. “There is agreement on a two-year concept phase…[and]….a contract could be awarded shortly,” UK Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne told reporters at the Eurosatory show here June 19, adding however that “data-sharing agreements have to be competed.” Physics and aerodynamics being what they are, it is not surprising that Dassault’s Neuron demonstrator (above) and BAE System’s Taranis demonstrator (below) should look the same at first glance. The FCAS will build on knowledge gained on both programs. (photos Dassault and BAE). BAE and Dassault have been working together for about 18 months to investigate the feasibility of joint development of FCAS, based on their separate but complementary experience in developing unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrators, either alone (BAE with its Taranis) or jointly – Dassault’s Neuron project also included Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab as well as smaller Greek and Spanish firms. A major question mark concerns the work-sharing arrangements, as both companies are obviously keen to advance and maintain their technological know-how. This is complicated, again, by their previous work on Taranis and Neuron, which sometimes led them in different directions and which may be difficult to reconcile. “We have already shared some data, but we haven’t shown everything yet,” Benoît Dussaugey, Dassault Executive Vice-President, International, told Defense-Aerospace.com June 18, adding that full disclosure will not take place before contract award. However, having successfully managed Neuron on time and on schedule with an international team of partners, Dassault does not believe this aspect will be a show-stopper. "We are confident we will find an agreement with our partners on work-share, subject to sovereign decisions by governments," Dussaugey said. The program could be opened to additional foreign partners, he adds, on two conditions: "that everyone accepts and respects our common rules, and that the respective governments finance [their share] of the entire phase." Nonetheless, BAE’s surprise and high-profile unveiling of its Taranis UCAV demonstrator in January, which it had jealously kept under wraps until then, was clearly intended to show its credentials in the lead-up to the FCAS MoU. It is probable that, as in the previous phase, BAE will remain FCAS prime contractor, while France’s defense procurement agency, Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), will act as program executive on behalf of both nations. Having successive definition and demonstration phases is considered essential for governments to define and harmonize their operational requirements, and for industry to weigh their technical feasibility and cost implications. For example, will in-flight refueling be required, and if yes using a receptacle or a boom? Where and how should radar antennas be integrated into the airframe? Will FCAS be designed to follow a pre-programmed flight path (which the French favor, as it is impervious to jamming, interception and loss of data-link), or on the contrary be remotely-piloted, as the Royal Air Force favors so as to keep a man permanently in the loop? Should the aircraft be totally silent in terms of radar, radio and IR emissions, or could it resort to jamming? Should it be single- or twin-engined? Once these basic questions are answered, processed and priced by industry, the logical follow-up would be a demonstration phase, during which the project would be further developed and prototypes or flight test aircraft built, but a decision would not be required before late 2017, which makes it very unlikely that a FCAS could fly before the end of the decade. -ends-
30/04/2014

USAF Vision & Plans for UAVs 2013-2038

Source: US Air Force Ref: no reference Issued April 04, 2014) 101 PDF pages Air Force leaders outlined what the next 25 years for remotely piloted aircraft will look like in the RPA Vector, published April 4. “The RPA Vector is the Air Force’s vision for the next 25 years for remotely-piloted aircraft,” said Col. Kenneth Callahan, the RPA capabilities division director. “It shows the current state of the program, the great advances of where we have been and the vision of where we are going.” The goal for the vector on the operational side is to continue the legacy Airmen created in the RPA field. The vector is also designed to expand upon leaps in technology and changes the Airmen have made through the early years of the program. “The Airmen have made it all about supporting the men and women on the ground,” Callahan said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for their own advances in technology to expand the program, making it a top platform.” The document gives private corporations an outlook on the capabilities the Air Force wants to have in the future, ranging from creation of new RPAs to possibilities of automated refueling systems. “There is so much more that can be done with RPAs,” said Col. Sean Harrington, an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance command and control requirements chief. “Their roles (RPAs) within the Air Force are evolving. We have been able to modify RPAs as a plug-and-play capability while looking to expand those opportunities.” In recent years, RPAs not only supported the warfighter on the ground, they also played a vital role in humanitarian missions around the world. They provided real time imagery and video after the earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan in 2011 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, according to Callahan. Then, most recently, during the California Rim Fire in August 2013, more than 160,000 acres of land were destroyed. Though this loss was significant, it was substantially decreased by the support of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, with support from an MQ-1 Predator, a remotely piloted aircraft. With this vector, technologies may be created to improve those capabilities while supporting different humanitarian efforts, allowing the Air Force to support natural disaster events more effectively and timely. The future of the Air Force’s RPA programs will be continuously evolving, to allow the Air Force to be the leader in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. “We already combine our air, space and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. “Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.” (PDF format) Full text
07/03/2014

Airbus Plots Return to UAV Market

MADRID --- Airbus Defense and Space is preparing to return to the UAV market, three years after it was forced out by the reluctance of the French and German governments to financially support any of the unmanned aircraft projects which it had developed. “We are revisiting our strategy on unmanned aerial vehicles with a vision to leadership,” Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Military Aircraft sales at Airbus Defence and Space, told Defense-Aerospace.com. “We are planning to be there, even if it takes some years.” This is a major shift in company policy, as Airbus Group decided in 2011 to freeze its UAV activities after having invested over 500 million euros in several programs without having convinced its domestic customers that they were worth supporting. Corporate strategy, at the time, was to sit out until European governments decided which programs, and which companies, they would support. This approach was not very successful, however, as Airbus was frozen out of two major market segments: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), where France preferred buying Reaper unmanned aircraft from the United States, with Germany and the Netherlands to follow shortly, and the High Altitude Lone Endurance (HALE) segment, where its EuroHawk program was abruptly cancelled by the Germen government because of cost and regulatory failings. The company was left with only smaller UAVs, a segment where competition is rife and margins small. Airbus has now changed tack because “it’s time for a proper aircraft manufacturer to get involved, to certify UAVs to civilian standards – and I mean FAR 23 and FAR 25 – so they can be used in unsegregated airspace,” Rodriguez said. At present, UAVs can only be used in segregated airspace, under military air regulations, and so are severely limited in their operational usefulness. While it has no immediate plans to resume large-scale investments in the UAV sector, Airbus DS does not see financing as a major obstacle. “We know there is a market, and if there is a market there is money,” Rodriguez said. He adds that for Airbus this is a decade-long project, which will eventually bring it a leading role: “Airbus is not here to be a subcontractor,” he says, making clear that the company is not aiming for a subordinate role in ongoing European UAV programs. While waiting for the MALE market to mature, and for the dust to settle in the combat UAV (UCAV) segment, Airbus is finalizing development of its own tactical UAV, Atlante, which is significantly smaller than the MALE and HALE segments it previously pursued. Weighing about 550 kg, Atlante has been developed in Spain, and from the outset the goal has been to fly in segregated civilian airspace, i.e. over populated areas, and it is intended to be certified for that operational environment. “The key word here is ‘certification’,” Rodriguez says, adding that, of course, “it has to offer value for money.” Atlante first flew in February 2013, Light Transport Aircraft Sector Gliding Along While its UAV strategy matures, Airbus DS continues to improve its transport aircraft product line. It recently agreed with Indonesian partner IPT Nurtanio, also known as Indonesian Aerospace, to develop a modernized version of the C-212 light twin turboprop transport, and it also is refining the performance of the C-295, its very successful medium twin. Most of the effort is on refining the airframe design, for example by adding wingtip extensions, and on increasing engine power ratings, which together add 1,000 ft. to the aircraft’s ceiling in One Engine Inoperative (OEI) conditions. The C295’s Pratt & Whitney engines are already at their power limit, so they have no more growth potential, so these refinements, together with a major upgrade of the aircraft’s avionics, will suffice to keep them competitive for years to come, says Rodriguez. The avionics upgrade will make it easier for the aircraft to operate in a civil environment. A new design may well be necessary in 10 or 15 years, he adds, but for now it is still very premature. The current line-up is quite profitable for the company, and currently accounts for average sales of about 20 aircraft per year, worth about 700-800 million euros including 100-150 million euros for related services. Over the past 10 years, Airbus has sold 157 of the 306 light/medium turboprops sold world-wide, and so has a market share of over 50%, and this should increase as additional orders will be announced this year, one of them “by Easter.” Compared to the Alenia C-27J Spartan, its direct competitor, the C-295 is simple, offers substantially lower fuel costs and “can be maintained with a hammer and a screwdriver,” Rodriguez says. Specifically, he says that maintenance costs are 35% lower, fuel consumption is 50% lower and, in terms of life-cycle costs, “it can save one million euros per plane, per year.” -ends-
03/03/2014

US Unmanned Vehicle Roadmap, FY2013-38

Source: U.S Department of Defense Ref: 14-S-0553 Issued December 26, 2013 168 PDF pages Strategy and budget realities are two aspects of the Defense Department's new Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, released Dec. 23. The report to Congress is an attempt to chart how unmanned systems fit into the defense of the nation. "The 2013 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap articulates a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across DOD," said Dyke Weatherington, the director of the unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance office at the Pentagon. "This road map establishes a technological vision for the next 25 years and outlines the actions and technologies for DOD and industry to pursue intelligently, and affordably align with this vision," he continued. Unmanned aerial vehicles have received the most press, but unmanned underwater vehicles and ground vehicles are also providing warfighters with incredible capabilities. Although unmanned vehicles have proved their worth in combat operations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, current technologies must be expanded and integrated into the sinews of the defense establishment, the report says. It also calls for unmanned systems to be programs of record in order to achieve "the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration and other key parameters needed to meet future operational requirements." (PDF format) Full text