Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Mil Tech — Students Develop Technology for the Air Force

Jun 02 2014

Published by under Technology

AFRL_2013_Bifrost

Utah State University’s (USU) engineering department student researchers have been at the forefront of efforts for the past three years to answer technology challenges issued by the U.S. Air Force.

As one of 16 universities accepted into the Air Force Research Laboratory’s design challenge, USU students have developed three different systems that might be used by Air Force troops in the field — a mobile bridge that fits in a backpack, a wall-climbing vacuum device, and a multi-stage jack that can lift up to 45,000 pounds.

Byard Wood, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and head of the university’s Capstone Design Program, says the Research Laboratory’s Office of Air Force Scientific Research presents a new problem to be solved every year.

“You have to design a system from scratch that solves the problem,” he says. “This is the most difficult competition I’ve been involved in.”

Last year, the university’s design team was awarded first place in the competition for BAMBI (Break Apart Mobile Bridging Infiltration), a device that servicemembers can use to scale walls or bridge a gap.

“It’s a simple design made of carbon fiber that weighs 27 pounds,” Wood says, “which can cross a 20 foot gap and hold up to 350 pounds. BAMBI gets its strength from the carbon fiber used in its construction and can be disassembled and put in a backpack.”

BAMBI also has additional functions, Wood notes, such as an emergency transport system or a back brace for an injured person.

 In the Air Force’s 2012 challenge, a team of Utah State University engineering student researchers came up with a device that use a vacuum system to aid in climbing a 90-foot wall.

“The system uses two vacuum pads with stirrups attached to them,” Wood says. “The climber steps into the stirrups and uses the pads to ascend the wall, much as a someone would using jumar ascenders on a climbing rope. We were the only team to get someone up to the climbing height and received a $100,000 grant from the Air Force to develop the system further.”

This year, the USU team is designing a lifting system that allows one or two people to raise a disabled 45,000 pound vehicle in such a way that personnel or equipment could be extricated from underneath it.

“We have two solutions,” Byard notes. “One is an airbag that is much lighter than traditional airbags where we use a rubberized plastic bag with structural fiber around it to provide strength. The other is a multi-stage jack with shoring bars that can raise the vehicle 48 inches.”

All the students in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department take part in the challenge, which USU includes as part of its two-semester Capstone Design program.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.

Image of the USU Bifrost team from the Utah State University website.

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Mil Tech — China Lake Unit Develops Spike Miniature Munition

May 05 2014

Published by under Technology

U.S. Navy photo by Patrick Kreidt

U.S. Navy photo by Patrick Kreidt

New technology and innovative products don’t always come out of the private sector. Sometimes they are developed completely from within the military services. A case in point is Spike, a forward firing miniature munition designed, developed, and tested by the crew at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, Calif.

Greg Wheelock, the Spike project lead, says Spike is a miniature guided missile that uses an electro-optical seeker to acquire, lock on, and fly to a target.

“Spike performs guidance maneuvers (as it travels) in order to keep it engaged,” Wheelock says. “Its targets primarily are soft targets, such as people in vehicles or small boats, behind unarmored vehicles or walls, and personnel in rooms or other confined spaces.”

Scott O’Neil, executive director of NAWCWD at China Lake, says one of the tasks of the design team was to keep the munition fairly light. The team was successful in that regard, bringing Spike in at six pounds in a 24-inch long and 2-inch diameter configuration. Spike carries a high explosive (HE) and fragmentation combined effect warhead, he says.

“Spike can be launched off a tripod on the ground with a couple of guide rails,” O’Neil says, “and we are developing the capability to launch Spike from a tube, either from a shoulder or ground mount, or hanging from an aircraft.”

O’Neil notes two other parts of the Spike development project were to put together the munition using off-the-shelf components and to use it to train the workforce at NAWCWD. “We started about 10 years ago setting training money aside for hands-on work and to try to move the idea of this small weapon along,” O’Neil says. “We did the design and put the prototype together and tested it against stationary targets on our range. Then we addressed mobile targets on land, and once we hit the mobile targets, word got out, and people became very interested in Spike.”

O’Neil says between 250 and 300 entry-level engineers have been trained in weaponry design through the Spike program. “They design the warheads, small fuses, signal processing, tracker, control logs, and other components,” he says. “All those elements were designed by those entry-level scientists and engineers with senior-level personnel overseeing their work.”

Keeping the design simple and the complexity down will make it easier to take Spike into production, O’Neil says. “If Spike is kept as a very simple weapon, we might use the broader industry base in the country and their manufacturing processes for higher volume production of Spike at lower costs,” he observes.

The munition built by NAWCWD for testing purposes cost about $50,000, however, O’Neil believes there is an opportunity for a defense sector production environment to get the cost of the weapon to half that figure. “That would be a pretty effective capability compared with some of the weapons we have today,” he says. “We were able to cut the complexity and still maintain pretty sophisticated capabilities.” NAWCWD built 20 Spike rounds for testing from tripod ground launchers and airborne platforms, shooting at moving targets on the ground and in the water. The test results were 11 successful firings where Spike engaged and hit its target.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.

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Mil Tech — Northrop Grumman Develops Electronic Attack Payload for Small UAV Bat

Apr 03 2014

Published by under Technology

Northrup Grumman's Bat UAV

Northrup Grumman’s Bat UAV

Bat, a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for medium altitude, multi-mission work, developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. of Redondo Beach, Calif., recently got an added mission when the company demonstrated an internal miniature electronic attack payload for the UAV.

The demonstration was carried out during the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) event held at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, Calif. The Bat demonstration involved the jamming of radars, and the Bat flew a number of missions with manned fixed-wing aircraft and other unmanned platforms.

George Vardoulakis, the company’s vice president of medium-range tactical systems, says, “Bat continues to demonstrate capabilities that can normally only be achieved by larger, more expensive unmanned aircraft.”

The Bat can be configured with differently sized fuel tanks and sensor payloads to meet varied missions — intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), tactical, communications relay, or target acquisition. Its design allows payloads to be changed quickly for rapid, expeditionary, deployment.

The UAV has both 10-foot and 12-foot wingspan variants, and Northrop Grumman notes it has a 20-foot wingspan design under development. Because of its blended body design, the Bat is able to carry a payload volume of 3.2 cubic feet and up to 30 pounds.

An additional advantage to the Bat is it is launched from a pneumatic-hydraulic rail system so it doesn’t need a runway, meaning it can be launched from land or at sea.

Bat incorporates both a Hirth electronic fuel injection engine and a heavy fuel variant, which runs on a JP-8 variant, the most widely used fuel variant in the U.S. military. It has a 15 hour flight duration and a ceiling of 15,000 feet and can travel up to 70 mph.

Northrop Grumman reports  Bat has been deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Special Operations Command for ISR work, as well as to perform IED detection for troops.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.

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Stay Connected During Deployment With Social Media

Mar 12 2014

familycommunicationOur friends at the Real Warriors Campaign have some advice on using social media to stay connected to loved ones during deployments, transitions and separations – and check out the other resources they offer on how to stay safe using social media during a deployment and even support friends stationed overseas:

Social media provides a means for service members to connect and interact with friends and loved ones daily. With social media, service members can maintain communication with friends and family through transitions and separations. Read this article from Real Warriors to learn how social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Instagram and Pinterest can help facilitate long distance correspondence and allow service members to stay connected regardless of their location.

With “more computing power in our pockets than Apollo had in orbit,” military families are finding ways to communicate that transcend the traditional pen and paper. Deployed parents are able read their children bedtime stories and even leave virtual sticky notes on the family bulletin board. Learn what tools servicemembers and their families find most useful and get helpful tips. MOAA members can login to read this recent feature “During Deployments, Family Time Goes High-Tech.”

 

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Mil Tech — M1A1 Abrams Tanks Get a New Lease on Life

Mar 03 2014

Published by under Technology

Another dozen M1A1 Abrams Tanks will receive M1A2 Systems Enhancement Package (SEP) V2 configurations, under a $72.7 million contract awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Mich., by the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command.

Calling the M1A2 SEP V2 “the most technologically advanced digital tank,” General Dynamics notes the M1A2 SEP V2 includes improved color displays, day and night thermal sights, a commander remote operated weapon station (CROWS II), a thermal management system, and a tank-infantry phone.

Didem Martuscelli, program manager for General Dynamics Land Systems, says older M1A1 Abrams tanks inducted into the process are torn apart at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama where reusable parts are refurbished and then sent with the tank structure to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (formerly Lima Army Tank Plant) in Ohio.

A M1A2 Abrams tank with the Systems Enhancement Package (SEP) V2

A M1A2 Abrams tank with the Systems Enhancement Package (SEP) V2

“That’s where we assemble them into the M1A2 SEP V2 configuration with new parts that we either procure or manufacture, along with the Army’s refurbished parts,” Martuscelli says.

The upgrades includes color displays for the driver, commander, and gunner, compared to the M1A1′s monochrome displays, as well as thermal sights for each position, giving the commander situational awareness and gunners improved fields of fire.

“New to the M1A2 system is where the commander has an independent thermal viewer that gives him 360-degree situational awareness,” Martuscelli observes. “The commander can be searching for a target while the gunner is working on a different target.”

Another enhancement in the upgrade is the CROWS II, which allows the commander to fire smaller weapons remotely without opening the tank’s hatch.

“The government provides the system to us and we integrated it into our production line,” Martuscelli points out.

A Thermal Management System not available on the M1A1 platform is fitted to the upgraded tanks to allow for additional cooling of the vehicle crew space.

“We also do a number of upgrades to the tank’s suspension system to handle the additional weight of the added systems and armor,” Martuscelli notes.

Peter Keating, General Dynamics public information officer, says nearly 400 suppliers around the country are involved in the project.

“Our $72.7 million contract is a little more than half of the $114 million project,” Keating says. “The government buys track, engines, and gun tubes from government suppliers or depots. For example, Allison builds the transmissions, Honeywell does the engines and the gun tubes are made at Watervliet Arsenal in New York.”

Keating adds, “Because we use the hull and turret of the existing tanks and made modifications to them, along with other components that get refurbished, there’s a 70 percent savings over if we were to built the tank from scratch.”

The production schedule for this batch of M1A2 conversions runs through December 2015.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.

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