Monthly Archives: January 2018

The perils of open source data

Military agencies are in an on-going battle to maximise the benefits of commercial open source data while avoiding the potentially devastating intelligence pitfalls.

The security risks associated with open source data were starkly highlighted by the release of Strava’s Global Heatmap.

The map, which shows the routes travelled by users of its exercise tracking product, inadvertently exposed sensitive information about American and allied military bases and troop movements in conflict zones across the world.

 

Erbilc

The map highlights a number of well-known military bases across Iraq and Syria, where Western soldiers have been stationed as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

However, it is the movements of troops outside their bases, their patrol and supply routes and smaller camps not previously known about which could offer valuable information to enemy forces.

Kirkukc

At the recent Defence Geospatial Intelligence conference in London, military and industry leaders discussed how security challenges can be overcome to enable better exploitation of the vast reams of commercial data available to military and intelligence agencies.

However, as Maj Gen James Hockenhull, director of cyber intelligence and information integration at the UK MoD noted, the relationship between the military and industry requires improvement.

With incidents such as the Strava heat map, military users of commercial geospatial systems remain sceptical about the security and reliability of the data being collected and disseminated.

NKorea

However, the proliferation of commercial satellites offers a huge potential for militaries to access near real-time, high-resolution imagery within government spending constraints.

Further developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning algorithms have led to a significant leap in the efficiency, and outsourcing, of geospatial intelligence analysis to companies willing to invest heavily in the technologies.

These include companies such as Esri and DigitalGlobe who are developing deep learning algorithms to enable automated identification of a wide range of objects.

This could provide intelligence agencies with rapid and accurate strategic information, such as the movements of enemy military equipment, troops, or weapons testing locations, such as the site of the North Korean missile test pictured above.

 

 

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 4

What happens in Vegas

This week news was dominated by SHOT Show with over 1600 exhibitors turning out at the four-day Las Vegas firearms event.

Covering the story of Hensoldt unveiling a new fire control system, which has been primed for shoulder-launched weapons, Grant Turnbull also reports that the company expect the 4×30 600 FCS to be available to customers by the third quarter of 2019.

HENSOLDT_FCS_4x30_600

On the subject of pricking customer interest, Israel Weapon Industries also confirmed at SHOT that it expects to offer its new 7.62mm bullpup-configured Tavor 7 by the end of Q1 this year. The company is eyeing up both the military and law enforcement markets for its latest addition to the Tavor bullpup family rifle range.

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News from Singapore 

Show enthusiasts don’t have long to catch their breath before another big gig rolls into town – with industry focus shifting to Singapore for ADECS 2018 beginning next week. For those that can’t wait until then – never fear – we have a dedicated microsite which features pre-show news and a video preview of the event.

From Singapore Chen Chuanren reports that the Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG) is busy exploring unmanned technologies to counter threats at sea. A series of trials have to date been key to such exploration with two variants of the Venus USV from ST Electronics being used, namely a Venus 9 and a larger Venus 16.

Singapore Coast Guard

While the Venus USVs are unarmed, they are fitted with an automatic fire extinguishing system and loudhailers for standard constabulary duties.

Training down under 

Continuing news in the Asia Pacific region, the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) has started military simulation training on it’s upgraded BAE Systems Hawk Mk 127 fleet at its Williamtown, New South Wales, base. The Project Air 5438 LIFCAP has led to the aircraft undergoing a major avionics upgrade alongside the deployment of three Full Mission Simulators (FMS) two at Williamtown and another to RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.

Hawk_127_lifcap

Naval gazing 

Taking a look at the modernisation of the Indian Navy (IN) underwater fleet, Neelam Mathews outlines some of the difficulties that have challenged Project 75 – the IN’s framework for implementing indigenous submarine production. Signs of renewed hope are however emerging not least because of an $11 billion Project 75(I) programme which will build six advanced stealth submarines.

 

Chopper news 

On the helicopter front, the US Coast Guard (USCG) is sizing up ways to extend the life of its ageing Sikorsky H-60 Jayhawk fleet. 2025 had been planned for retiring the twin engine, medium range aircraft based on a 20,000 flight hour estimation. The USCG has opted to undertake market research with industry to determine if alternative solutions can deliver a breakthrough.

USCG

Among the possibilities which could be investigated are the replacement of the upper fuselage which should fully integrate with the current H-60T Jayhawk configuration or the replacement of the upper fuselage modified with various parts installed.

The USMC has no such plans to extend the life of its Bell Helicopter AH-1W Super Cobras with the fleet being retired by 2020. In a move that will have likely caught the attention of the international market, the service is set to offload a surplus of the aircraft to FMS customers. Industry is being requested to outline it’s suitability to manufacture Super Cobra glass cockpits as part of a sources sought notice issued by the Naval Air Systems Command.

Super_Cobra

Digital dominance 

Switching to the digital battlespace, defence leaders have been keen to publicise the need to better collect, process and exploit geospatial intelligence data. Alice Budge reports that Maj Gen James Hockenhull, director of cyber intelligence and information integration at the UK MoD, spoke of the pivotal role data plays in current and future conflicts.

 

 

Port of Rotterdam makes a splash

Last week I took a trip over to Rotterdam for the inauguration of a new patrol boat into the fleet of vessels for the Port of Rotterdam, the RPA8.

Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in Europe as well as being a fantastic Dutch city.

However, I did not bet on my trip coinciding with one of the deadliest storms to hit Northern Europe. Gusts of up to 140km/h (90mph) saw Schiphol airport close its doors for most of the day and the Dutch rail network ground to a halt.

Driving through the port the damage and disruption was clear to see with water taxis forced onto their moorings, cargo containers tumbling from their stacks and Dutch cyclists batting against the high winds.

Despite this, the show must go on and I was able to take a look on board the RPA8 Patrol Boat which entered service with the Port of Rotterdam Harbour Master on 18 January following its official christening ceremony.

The boat is one of the most advanced designs of vessel the port authority has in its fleet now.

The RPA8 was constructed by Dutch Shipyard Kooiman, representing the first time the shipbuilder has constructed a patrol boat, and designed by Dutch Naval Architects Van Oossanen.

The integration of Hull Vane technology from Van Oossanen, essentially an underwater spoiler, has allowed energy saving on the boat, reduces wave making and assists in noise reduction

One feature that could be applicable to the future use of Hull Vane is that can enable pitch and yaw damping, stabilising the boat, allowing for weapon systems to be more accurate and assist in helicopter landings on larger vessels through the improvement of the core stability.

While to-date the Hull Vane has a modest portfolio of ships it has been integrated on the possibilities appear significant both for retrofit and new builds.

Typically navies and fleet operators tend to trust proven designs, with new vessels using the Hull Vane this presents an opportunity for the maritime community to see the technology in action.

The company is now testing the Hull Vane on the Holland Class OPV to see what advantages it can bring to large naval vessels. The market for the Hull Vane is typically large vessels with high speed requirements of around 25kt.

If the Dutch navy is seen to adopt this technology it could open the floodgates for Hull Vane. Pardon the pun.

The World According to Shephard: Week 3

A game of charades?

This week the Geobukseon dives into the possible repercussions of constitutional change in Japan, suggesting that the country has never really been a pacifist nation. Tensions in the region have reignited debate regarding the nature of Japan’s self-defence forces, with many claiming it is a military force by another name.

Meanwhile, Gordon Arthur reports on the strengthening cooperation between Japanese paratroopers and US Army Green Berets who have conducted a mass airdrop exercise.

Japan

Qatar’s searches for new friends

Qatar’s Defence Minister has detailed plans to increase the country’s order of Hawk training aircraft from six to nine units. The announcement comes amid a rapid build-up of the Gulf-nation’s defence capabilities, in particular relating to its air force.

The minister also stressed that Doha is seeking to enhance and diversify its defence relationships with a wide range of ‘friendly’ nations. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent displays of Chinese and Turkish military equipment at Qatar’s National Day Parade.

Qatar

Helicopter orders fly in

The US Army has wasted little time in moving its purchase of 35 new UH-72 Lakota aircraft forward, it is even prepared to proceed without a competitive process. The announcement came one day after the army’s deadline for industry to respond to how they could meet the service’s requirement to purchase the H145M.

The Indian Army is facing the peculiar dilemma of having to stall deliveries of HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) due to the unavailability of spares for the fleet already in service. There are more ALH aircraft on the production line than the army is willing to take as maintenance of the existing fleet remains a key concern.

India HAL heli

Indonesia’s military has also been receiving new aircraft, recently accepting two Airbus Helicopters AS565 MBe Panthers, three armed H125M Fennecs and a CN-235-220 aircraft. The Panthers, part of a November 2014 contract for 11 aircraft for the Indonesian Navy, are configured for anti-submarine warfare. Further deliveries of AS565s are expected in early 2018.

Finally, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) has added 14 newly-built Ka-52 attack helicopters to its fleet. The RuASF now has a fleet of over 100 Ka-52s operated by its army aviation branch. The Russian MoD also expects to receive two enhanced Mi-28NM attack helicopters by the end of this year.

Heli2

Nightwarden sale looms

Textron is confident that the first sale of its Nightwarden UAV is on the horizon. Beth Maundrill reports that the first deal is likely to be an international sale and it is understood this would be a completely new customer for the company. It is also possible that Sweden may select the Nightwarden as part of a UAS upgrade.

Nightwarden

The future is here: quantum computing, AI and robotics

US Army leaders are seeking ways to capitalise on advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The army’s top four-star general has warned that the military must address the ‘fundamental change in the character of war’. To this end, the service is working to develop new weapons systems to meet challenges posed by near-peer and peer threats such as Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency and its industrial partners are planning to launch two quantum key distribution satellites at the beginning of next decade to deliver commercial services to private and governmental entities. Quantum cryptography, which relies on encrypting data into the quantum states of particles is believed to be inherently unbreakable.

 

 

 

 

 

Regulations likely to drone on and on

During a US Army Black Hawk and DJI Phantom 4 UAV collision in September last year, the helicopter sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck while parts of the UAV were discovered lodged in its engine oil cooler.

black-hawk

 

At the time an FAA temporary flight restriction was in place, in keeping with good practice which stipulates, ‘travel is limited because of a temporary hazardous condition, such as a wildfire or chemical spill; a security-related event…’

In this case a UN General Assembly meeting, with US President Trump in attendance, was being held in New York City.

Under other FAA restrictions all UAV flight is prohibited ‘from the ground up to 400ft’ and within five miles of an airport or helipad.

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So far, so good. Ostensibly laws are water tight. That is until state level compliance is considered.

New York is a particularly interesting test case as there is no state level regulations prohibiting UAV flight, despite the fact that several civil suits involving drone operators have been brought before the courts. ‘Reckless endangerment’ is often the charge sought by the prosecution when these cases are being debated.

New York City’s government website takes an unequivocal position, which reads, ‘If you see a drone being flown in the city, call 911.’

In contrast, the city’s department of parks and recreation website features the various locations where UAVs can be flown freely.

Allowances, it seems, cannot be made for those who wish to plead ignorance with respect to UAV ownership and responsible flying. The NTSB’s investigative report into the original September incident detailed several errors admitted to by the DJI Phantom 4 owner.

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A summary of the report states, ‘The drone operator was unaware of the collision until an NTSB investigator contacted him. The operator was also not aware of temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time because of presidential travel and a UN general assembly session. He was flying recreationally and did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate.’

Without more stringent regulations questions remain, even from this one incident where there were thankfully no injuries sustained by the Black Hawk aircrew or members of the public.

Who will pay for the damages caused to the helicopter? Will the US Army have to rethink how they organise and execute security centered missions when in close proximity to the civil population? Do thresholds of 400ft and upwards and five miles outside of an airport/helipad have to be similarly reassessed?

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A year of military simulation highlights

I/ITSEC 2017 in Orlando was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which was the advancement of certain key technologies that help to shape the delivery of training to the warfighter.

Operation Blended Warrior (OBW) was notable for the involvement of a number of non-US industry members, but in many ways the real I-LVC event was that conducted by CAE and Rockwell Collins.

This demonstration showed how industry can work together to deliver a robust and workable training solution for the military. Of course, OBW has done that in the past, but previous LVC demonstrations seem to have been more about proving conceptual theories than showcasing a practical way of training.

High-profile developments The CAE/Rockwell Collins effort clearly showed the practical benefits of I-LVC and in doing so, became an important milestone in the evolution of its enabling technologies. Using different databases and computer-generated forces within a four-level cyber-secure environment to depict a coherent and believable scenario, this demonstration showed the military the real benefits of I-LVC.

When combined with the work being undertaken by Cubic Global Defense and the Air Force Research Laboratory on Project SLATE (Secure LVC Advanced Training Environment), and the continuing profile given to I-LVC by OBW, I/ITSEC 2017 may be considered as the launch pad for the meaningful acceleration of capabilities in this area.

The high profile of I-LVC over recent years has led many companies to claim such a capability, but, to quote one middle-ranking USMC officer: ‘Just because we can, should we?’ This highlights the need to weed out the ‘geewhiz’ technologies unless they clearly support the overall training objective.

As well as the technical aspect of I-LVC, the CAE/Rockwell Collins demonstration also highlighted another increasing trend within the industry: collaboration.

Gene Colabatistto, CAE’s group president of defence and security, told MTSN: ‘That collaboration is key to success in our industry, and we continue to look for partnerships where they might benefit both parties.’

Like I-LVC, augmented reality (AR) is being touted as the answer to all our training delivery prayers. Again, this technology is still in its relative infancy, but one demonstration at I/ITSEC showed a practical and, more importantly perhaps, productionised benefit.

Saab Training had been looking at AR for a number of years to enhance its laser-based tactical engagement simulation offering. Initially opting for a HoloLens but finding issues with the robustness of the device in the field, the company has now adopted a tablet or mobile telephone solution.

The We:Are device allows exercise umpires, so-called observer controllers (OCs), to view such things as the effects of artillery fire missions as a virtual overlay on the real-world scene. With We:Are, the OCs can also see virtual map markings and computer-generated assets to assist them in making the correct decision to enhance the reality of the exercise.

In theory then, We:Are is not only an AR tool but also carries out an I-LVC function as well.

For more information on the latest edition of MTSN see here.

The world according to Shephard: Week 2

Army means business 

The US Army has been conducting helicopter business swiftly this week beginning with its decision to push forward with the purchase of 35 new Airbus UH-7A Lakota’s and subsequently followed by a ‘sources sought’ call to industry for 120 Boeing AH-6is.

UH72A-lakota-trainers-rfi

In the first case the service has acknowledged that as a result of Airbus owning the H145 technical data package, industry respondents will be expected to address how the UH-7A Lakota platform will be produced ‘without having this data available and without incurring significant additional costs’.

AH-6i developments are slightly less advanced than the Lakota programme, with the army’s 9 January RfI explicitly indicating that information received from industry would be for planning purposes only. As is convention, the army is yet to publicly disclose any customer(s) details at this juncture but Jordan did express interest in the type eight years ago, while the Saudi Arabian National Guard are the first export customers of the light attack helicopter.

AH6X First Flight

Sound of S-64E Aircrane echo to ripple through forest

Stealing the headlines on the civil helicopter front was Erickson who secured an order for two new S-64E Aircranes by the Korea Forest Service. The pair of aircraft are in addition to a separate S-64E Aircrane order which is currently under construction and due to be delivered in Q3 2018.

s64E-firefighting

Raytheon dealt radar contract blow

The dismissal of three protest bids from Raytheon by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has left Northrop Grumman in pole position to become the radar subcontractor for the US Air Force’s JSTARS Recap programme, reports Alice Budge.  Despite technical detail about the radar design submitted by Northrop Grumman being  limited, the company has claimed its subsystem performed well during pre-EMD programme testing, particularly with respect to demonstrating mission system interoperability at maximum data rates.

JSTARS_US_AF

Surface Navy 2018 focuses on Tomahawk talk 

If Raytheon is still reeling from the radar contract decision it will be comforted by the Trump administration’s exploration of loosening the reins on foreign military sales (FMS). The industry heavyweight remains eager to convince Washington that selling Tomahawk cruise missiles to American allies is key to maintaining production line productivity.

The Royal Navy is the only current Tomahawk FMS customer but Shephard’s newly appointed American Editor, Ashley Roque, reports that Raytheon indicated to journalists during the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium that various nations are requesting the weapon, with the new Block IV configuration enabling them to ‘sell on an FMS capacity’. 

Tomahawk_launch

Staying with Surface Navy 2018 stories, US based Orbital ATK has outlined its intention to develop an attack capability to down small UAS within 10km. The company has been quick to promote its anti-UAS Defence System, with ground forces being the company’s target market. Discussions have also taken place between Orbital and the US Air Force and Marine Corps on the matter of fielding the AUDS on mounted platforms.

USMC ACV 1.1 programme heats up

Stepping ashore – so to speak – and moving to land warfare news, the USMC’s ACV 1.1 programme is making progress with bids now submitted by industry for initial low-rate production. After SAIC and BAE Systems delivered 16 prototypes for the development and testing phase both companies are now competing for their 8×8 vehicle designs to be down-selected in June for initial production.

David Schacher Photography LLC

New details of ASI’s CFTD programme uncovered 

Rounding off this week’s news is military training and simulation affairs. Trevor Nash has taken up the story of further details emerging from the CH-53E Sea Stallion Containerised Flight Training Device (CFTD) programme won by Tampa-based Aero Simulation Inc (ASI). On the subject of the new information that has been uncovered he writes, ‘As far as the visual system is concerned, the new device and upgraded CFTD will be fitted with the Aechelon PC-Nova image generator and Christie Matrix StIM projectors.’

ASI

 

 

 

 

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