Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Mil Tech — U.S. Army Acquires More Gray Eagle UAVs

Apr 06 2015

Published by under Technology

The U.S. Army will be fielding more Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use at the division and corps level once the units roll off the line at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The Army recently awarded the company a $133 million contract for 19 Gray Eagles that’s a second purchase on a full-rate production contract.

Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Gray Eagle is a long-endurance UAV designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA); communication relay; and attack capabilities. The 27-1/2-foot long aircraft has a 56-foot wingspan, a maximum altitude of 29,000 feet, and a 3,600-pound gross takeoff weight.

“Doing surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance are Gray Eagle’s main focuses,” says Mike Cardenas, deputy director for the Army Programs Office at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. “It also has two radios on-board for the purpose of acting as a communications relay to talk with soldiers in the field in real time. In addition, Gray Eagle has four hard points, two on the outside of the wings for 250-pound intel-based payloads and two on the inside part of the wings that can carry 500-pound Hellfire missiles.”

When used in a RTSA configuration, Gray Eagle’s time on station for a location 300 kilometers from its launch point is about 20 hours, Cardenas says.

“If it’s loaded up with Hellfires and other payloads, at 300 klicks it is closer to 13 to 15 hours on station at 10,000 feet,” he observes.

Gray Eagle comes with two line-of-sight antennas, but the aircraft is being supplied to the Army with a satellite antenna that can be mounted to give the aircraft over-the-horizon capability. Gray Eagle also has a fully automated takeoff and landing system.

Cardenas points out that Gray Eagle is meant to be more of a tactical asset for division commanders, but also can be used as a strategic asset.

The Army’s Gray Eagle can be launched, controlled, and recovered at the location where’s it’s operational, Cardenas notes, compared with a U.S. Air Force UAV that might be launched and then have control of the unit given over to someone flying the aircraft via SATCOM (satellite communications).

“A unique element to the Gray Eagle is that it has manned-unmanned teaming, which is used between UAVs and Apache helicopters,” Cardenas says. “Once the Gray Eagle is up, an Apache can take control of the aircraft [and] its payload and Hellfire missiles in order to work together to target a certain location.”

Cardenas says manned-unmanned teaming was part of the operational testing criteria General Atomics Aeronautical Systems carried out in the summer of 2012.

“Shots were fired in teaming with an Apache during the testing,” he notes, “and we had very good success with it.”

Cardenas points out that for all the unmanned aircraft systems that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems makes, manned-unmanned teaming is unique to the Gray Eagle.

“Thus far we have not incorporated it into other assets,” he says, “although it could be done, depending on the system and the customer’s needs.”

Deliveries on the second Gray Eagle purchase contract will be made through September 2017.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at www.amazon.com.

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Mil Tech — Navy, Marine Corps Order Blackjack Small Tactical UAVs

Mar 03 2015

Published by under Technology

The U.S. Navy is purchasing three RQ-21A Blackjack small tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Boeing Insitu Inc. in Bingen, Wash., to provide information, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for tactical commanders in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.

RQ-21A

The $41.1 million contract was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.

The RQ-21A Blackjack is 8.2 feet long, has a 16-foot wingspan, weighs 81 pounds, and carries multi-sensor payloads in a under-nose pod. The UAV uses a pneumatic launcher and net-style recovery system, allowing it to be launched and recovered on both sea and land.

Blackjack’s maximum payload weight is 39 pounds with its standard payload configuration of an electro-optic imager, a mid-wave infrared imager, a laser rangefinder, an infrared marker, and a communications relay and automatic identification system.

Key features of the Blackjack, according to Insitu, are the rapid integration of new payloads for expanded mission sets; its roll-on, roll-off capability that supports ship-to-objective maneuvers; its minimal footprint that accommodates small sites and deck operations; and the fact it is expeditionary and runway independent to support tactical missions on land and sea.

The RQ-21A Blackjack features an endurance of up to 16 hours and has a ceiling of 19,500 feet. Blackjack uses an 8-horsepower reciprocating engine with electronic fuel injection and can ingest both JP-5 and JP-8 fuel. It’s cruising speed is 60 knots, and its maximum horizontal speed is in excess of 90 knots.

The RQ-21A Blackjack started its development in 2010 for the Navy and Marine Corps and was the first organic and dedicated multi-intelligence unmanned aerial system available to Marine and Navy tactical commanders.

The Navy expects Blackjack to provide real time situational awareness information to its ships, Navy special warfare units and expeditionary combat command forces, and Marine Corps land forces.

The Marine Corps will use Blackjack for dedicated real-time ISR for its expeditionary forces, divisions, and regiments, with information being delivered to a tactical commander.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at www.amazon.com.

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Mil Tech — Raytheon’s Missile Contract Worth a Half-Billion

Feb 02 2015

Published by under Technology

Raytheon Corp. has been awarded a fixed-price contract for $491,478,068 for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) for the U.S. Air Force and Navy and foreign military sales to Korea, Oman, Singapore, and Thailand.

AMRAAM

The AMRAAM is built at Raytheon’s Tucson, Ariz., facilities, and work is expected to be completed by February 2017.

AMRAAM has been integrated on the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22, and AV-8B as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen, according to Neil Jennings, Raytheon’s AMRAAM business development lead. He adds the U.S. Air Force currently is in the process of integrating AIM-120C7 on the F-35 Lightning II.

The AIM-120 AMRAAM is a 12-foot long missile with a 7-inch body and a 17-inch wingspan and weighs approximately 360 pounds. It’s range capabilities are classified.

Jennings calls ??the AIM-120 AMRAAM “the world’s most advanced air-to-air weapon.” He says more than 19,000 AMRAAM missiles have been manufactured to date and that 36 countries, including the U.S., use the missile as their primary air-to-air weapon.

Jennings adds the AMRAAM is a “dual-use” weapon also used in the surface launch role. “It is integrated on the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System and is the baseline missile for that system,” he points out.

When an AMRAAM is launched, its rocket motor fires and propels it to a very high speed (which is classified). In the initial stages of fly-out, the launch aircraft provides guidance via a datalink. After the missile gets further downrange, the AMRAAM turns on its internal radar system and proceeds to find its designated target. Once its target is acquired, it guides independently of the launch aircraft and completes the intercept on its own.

Jennings notes the AIM-120 AMRAAM has been operational for more than 20 years and has stayed at the forefront of air-to-air weapons.

“With unprecedented air combat flexibility, it gives aircrew the ability to launch well beyond visual range, in all weather conditions,” he says. “The AMRAAM has a multi-shot capability, meaning that several targets can be engaged simultaneously.”

Jennings adds that AMRAAM’s advanced guidance section incorporates digital technology and microminiaturized solid-state electronics, which gives the AMRAAM sophisticated guidance that sets it apart from all other air-to-air missiles. It also is fully reprogrammable and can be upgraded with software.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at www.amazon.com.

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Mil Tech – Textron to Develop U.S. Navy’s Common Unmanned Surface Vessel

Jan 05 2015

Published by under Technology

Textron Systems division AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, Md., has been awarded a $33.8 million contract by the U.S. Navy to provide common unmanned surface vessel (CUSV) support to the unmanned influence sweep system (UISS) program.

The Navy will use the CUSV to sweep magnetic and acoustic mines.

Bill Leonard, program director for unmanned surface systems at Textron Systems, says the CUSV will be used on both Freedom and Independence class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

“The 11 meter long vessel looks like a typical boat, but has no helm area,” Leonard says. “It’s launched off of the LCS, is self-propelled and autonomously controlled, although a person in the LCS monitors the CUSV all the time.”

Once the CUSV completes its mission, it returns autonomously to the LCS. Leonard notes.

The current CUSV is Textron’s fourth generation and has undergone more than 1,900 hours of in-water operation. Leonard points out that the latest version of the CUSV features design improvements that support missions in high seas, as well as carrying a large configurable payload bay. The CUSV is powered by dual diesel engines.

The CUSV is designed to sweep all three types of mines currently in use — acoustic, magnetic and acoustic/magnetic, Leonard says.

“The vessel puts an acoustic noise into the water to fool the mine into thinking a target is there and causing the mine to detonate,” he says. “In the case of a magnetic mine, which looks for the magnetic signature of a large ship, the CUSV puts out a magnetic signature to get the mine to detonate. The acoustic and electrical energy the CUSV puts into the water fools all those types of mines.”

Leonard adds that the CUSV is designed to be survivable.

“It can handle the shock of a mine detonating, even though those detonations can be very powerful explosions,” he says. “The hull design is an all aluminum structure which is more forgiving than a composite-type structure. We also shock mount many of the vessel’s components so they can tolerate the kinds of forces generated by a very high burst of shock.”

The signals are put in the water by the CUSV through a towed acoustic generator, Leonard says.

“The CUSV launches its cable and noise generator, and drags them through the water,” he says. “If there’s a mine detonation event, when the vehicle comes back to the LCS, it is inspected before being sent on another mission.”

The CUSV, which Textron Systems expects to deliver to the Navy in 2016, is designed to be a multi-mission craft, according to Leonard.

“We can take a payload package off of the CUSV and put a mine hunting system on it in place of the sweeping system,” he says. “It can be a great tool in clearing mines and one of the big advantages of unmanned systems is that you’re taking the person out of the minefield.”

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 — Marines Order Wasp AE Small UAS

Dec 01 2014

Published by under Technology

The U.S. Marine Corps have placed an order worth almost $22 million with AeroVironment Inc. for RQ-12 Wasp AE small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in what is the largest single procurement of the ground and water-capable Wasp AE.

Photo courtesy of AeroVironment Inc.

Photo courtesy of AeroVironment Inc.

The Marines recently unveiled its next generation small UAS family of systems and is adding the RQ-12 Wasp AE as the short range, or micro, solution to its existing portfolio made up of the AeroVironment RQ-118 Raven and the RQ-20A Puma AE. The Puma AE is the Marine Corps’ long-range solution, and the Raven fills the medium range.

The short-range Wasp AE weighs 2.8 pounds, operates for up to 50 minutes at a range of up to 5 kilometers, and delivers live, streaming color and infrared video from its pan-tilt-zoom Mantis i22 AE gimbaled payload. Wasp is launched by hand and capable of landing on the ground or in fresh or salt water, says Steven Gitlin, vice president of marketing strategy for AeroVironment.

“The Wasp platform has continuously evolved, as have Raven and Puma,” Gitlin points out. “We constantly listen to our customers and understand what works well, then look at new technology to enhance the capability of our systems.”

Gitlin notes the gimbaled Mantis i22 payload is the smallest AeroVironment offers at 275 grams and allows the UAS operator to easily switch between color and thermal video at the touch of a button without physically swapping the payloads.

“The Mantis payload gives a higher level of visual fidelity and continuous 360-degree observation of an item of interest, regardless of the air vehicle’s flight direction,” Gitlin says.
The Wasp AE offers the same environmental technologies as Puma AE and can land on the ground or on salt or fresh water, Gitlin adds. “After a salt water landing, the operator simply rinses off the Wasp AE and relaunches it with a fresh battery,” he says.

Gitlin points out the Wasp AE expands the capabilities of the previous Wasp model “by being more flexible, durable, having a longer flight time and increased sensor capabilities.”
He notes Wasp AE carries its payload on its underside and that the tail’s vertical stabilizer of the UAS looks as if it is upside down. “The Wasp AE is designed to be able to land on rough surfaces,” Gitlin says, “so prior to landing the vehicle flips over and lands on a padded landing surface on its top in order to protect its sensors.”

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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