Thursday, August 31, 2006Not meaning to over sensationalize the previous article from Inside the Air Force but there were a couple of points that stood out to me that I'd like to disect.
The Quadrennial Defense Review 2006 states that the USAF should "Develop a new land based penetrating long range strike capability to be fielded by 2018 while modernizing the current bomber force."
Further elaboration on this development schedule revealed that, "this scheduling approach is intended to serve as a bridge between the existing bomber force, which includes 21 B-2As, about 60 Rockwell B-1Bs and about 90 Boeing B-52Hs, and a next-generation long-range strike platform planned for 2037. The interim capability would not be used as a replacement, but would supplement the existing fleet with new upgrades."
So there it is, a USAF defined schedule of 2018 for the interim bomber and 2037 for the "next generation long range strike platform".
Interim Bomber - 2018
Possibilities as you are aware include but are not limited to a revamped Northrop Grumman B-2, a B-1R (regional bomber) with 4 F-119 turbofans (Raptor engines), and the more popular ideas of creating a tailess delta winged FB-22, bomber version of the Raptor or a larger bomber version of the F-23.
Next Generation Strike/Bomber - 2037
Concepts and technologies being looked at here include hypersonics, visual stealth, morphing or oblique flying wings and unmanned autonomous strike craft.
Now let's look at the 2nd paragraph in the report from "Inside the Air Force"; "This robust commitment ... would accelerate bomber modernization by two decades...".
So wait a minute! Accelerating bomber modernization by 2 decades? Originally we were to start development of the interim bomber in 2006, then field it in 2018 - then 20 years or 2 decades later have the Next Generation Strike/Bomber fielded.
Are they saying that instead of the interim bomber concept the DoD is just going to fast-forward to the Next Generation Bomber?
That would take some serious advanced technology development would it not?
It absolutely would, and yet there in the 4th paragraph of the "Inside the Air Force" report is this statement; "Some of it may be ‘very advanced' research,” the source said. “There really is a desire to get to a fly-off or a downselect and have a real competition among the aerospace companies.”
So which is it?
Are we going to have an "interim bomber" fielded by 2018 or are we going to have a next generation strike vehicle accelerated in it's development by 2 decades and fielded by 2018?
I think I know the answer - do you? The Air Force is proposing a $5 billion down payment for a next-generation long-range strike aircraft, money the service hopes will propel research and development needed to meet the Pentagon’s goal of fielding a new bomber fleet by 2018, according to sources familiar with new Air Force investment plans.
This robust commitment -- detailed in the Air Force’s proposed six-year spending plan, which was submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense earlier this month -- would accelerate bomber modernization by two decades in a bid to augment the effectiveness of U.S. air power in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Gen. Moseley: New long-range bomber on horizon for 2018"; Inside the Air Force
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Back in 2004 AW&ST magazine published an article in which they described the possibility of the interim bomber Long Range Strike system as being a bomber version of the F-22 Raptor.
It was also stated that visual stealth could be a viable technology for such an aircraft.
Here's the article link:
"USAF Weighs Four Skunk Works Designs for Interim Strike"; AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY, 11/28/2004
"Lockheed Martin designers are taking the wraps off four concepts they're offering to the U.S. Air Force to meet its requirements for an interim long-range strike platform to fit in between the B-2 and whatever will replace the 21 stealth bombers in the 2035 period.
Buried in those presentations are options--some acknowledged by the company and some not--for employing jamming devices, intelligence-gathering sensors and directed-energy weapons, say a number of military and aerospace industry officials with insight into future strike planning. Other proposals involve mounting low-observable external weapons pods and pylons, introducing morphing wing skins for carrying addition fuel, and changing aircraft skin colors for visual daytime stealth.
Air Force analysts had asked for concepts that could be fielded by 2010. Notional requirements for the interim strike capability include fielding an operational vehicle by 2015 with a range of 1,500-2,000 naut. mi. and a 5-15-ton payload. "
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Lockheed has revealed that they have been studying unmanned derivatives of the F-35 Lightning II in yet another in a steady stream of news releases as it mounts a PR campaign to establish itself in the unmanned systems market. Concepts studied by Lockheed's Skunk Works include both optionally piloted and dedicated unmanned versions.
Frank Mauro, deputy director unmanned aeronautical systems has stated that there have been behind the scenes discussion on unmaned versions of the F-35 for 2-3 years. Both an optionally piloted and dedicated unmanned Lightning II have been thoroughly conceptualized and designed, but getting the 3 manned versions of the F-35 flying before pursuing the idea any further.
It has been discussed that a fuel tank could replace the cockpit thus extending range, however the cost of the propulsion, avionics and most of the sensor systems should not change from a manned to an unmanned system according to Mr Mauro.
Operationally Lockheed has developed a swarming concept in which four unmanned Lightning II's would be controlled by two manned F-35's, or F-22's, sharing sensor information via an airborne datalink.
This would allow the sensors to be removed from the unmanned F-35s, which would be used as weapon carriers, reducing cost to about 72% that of the manned aircraft 30-35% of the cost is in the sensors. US Aerospace giant Boeing has designed a major revision for the F-15 Eagle, known as the F-15E+ "Super Eagle". Boeing is offering the Super Eagle to the US Air Force as an interim solution should the Lockheed F-35 encounter further production delays such as the 14 month delay proposed by the US Navy.
The F-15E+ Super Eagle will closely match the technology on board South Korea's new F-15K and Singapore's F-15SG, (incidently, these versions will keep Boeing's F-15 production lines busy until around 2010). The South Korea and Singapore versions are the most technically advanced F-15's on the planet, or at least they were before the F-15E+ Super Eagle.
According to Boeing represenatives the Super Eagle should cost $60 million and includes enhancements such as Raytheon's APG-63 Version 3 AESA radar featuring electronic attack and broadband communications capabilities, the most advanced ground attack software, a new radar warning receive and 15 "smart stations" under the wing enabling it to carry more weaponsthan ever before.
These "Super Eagle" technologies could also be retrofitted onto the existing F-15E fleet. The Air Force has 217 F-15E Strike Eagles.Boeing reps say an additional wing or two of F-15E+'s, somewhere around 100-150 aircraft, would fill the long range strike role until F-35 Lightning II fighters reach combat units in sufficient numbers.
So will the Super Eagle ever take flight? It's a very political issue, since any USAF move to buy an interim force of F-15E+s could send an unintentional message to international F-35 Lightning II partners that the USAF is backing away from its JSF commitments. Congress, the State Department and Lockheed will most likely not let this happen. However, foreign friends have expressed interest in the Super Eagle.
I personally feel that they should retrofit all the existing Eagles with the Super Eagle package. I say this because I agree that a buy of completely new airframes would be a provocative move politically with our F-35 partners.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Raggio has relinquished command of the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron to Lt. Col. Dan Holmes who was previously the director of operations at the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron. The 59th TES is responsible for testing, evaluating and reporting on newly procured and improved weapon systems and avionics in support of the warfighter.
It was under Raggio's command that the F-22 Raptor went through it's Force Development Evaluations. Systems such as the F-22's operating software and air-to-ground attack module were all heavily tested by the 59th at the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis prior to getting the thumbs up.
Best of luck to you Lieutenant Colonel, you will be remembered well by those who had the pleasure of working with you.
Below is an article posted in Flight International magazine/web site. Anytime there is new information on UAVs you can count on me posting it here.
Those of you who know me, know my professional history with Raytheon and that much of that professional history centered around UAVs and to a lesser degree airborne DEW applications.
Most people who follow UAV/UCAV development are more than aware of Lockheed's work on morphing aerial vehicles, the following article is a bit of an update on the progress of that effort.
"Lockheed and NextGen to demonstrate aggressive flight manoeuvres in next phase" , Flight International - Aug 15, 2006
Following successful in-flight tests of a shape-changing wing, two teams have been funded to demonstrate aggressive manoeuvring using fast morphing. Unmanned air vehicles built by Lockheed Martin and NextGen Aeronautics will use rapid changes in wing shape to perform steep climbs and tight turns following an attack on a target.
NextGen, with funding from Boeing Phantom Works, demonstrated its flexible-skin morphing wing in flight on 1 August, using a subscale remotely piloted vehicle called the MFX-1. Changes in area of 40% and span of 30%, with sweep varying from 15° to 35°, were achieved in flight at speeds of around 100kt (185km/h).
Torrance, California-based NextGen says the flights, at the Camp Roberts test range in California, were the first of a wing whose area, chord, sweep and aspect ratio can be changed in flight. Lockheed's Skunk Works abandoned efforts to fly its folding-wing morphing design after the subscale autonomous vehicle crashed twice during take-off attempts because of flight-control software issues.
The tests rounded out Phase 2 of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) morphing aircraft structures programme. This is demonstrating technology for an unmanned "hunter-killer" combining the loiter endurance of a surveillance platform with the high-speed dash of an attack aircraft in a single shape-changing vehicle.
Phase 2 included successful windtunnel tests of large-scale half models of the competing morphing wing designs (Flight International, 6-12 June).
A revised third phase is taking a slightly different tack, with DARPA funding Lockheed and NextGen to demonstrate the advantages of fast symmetric and asymmetric wing morphing for specific flight manoeuvres. One is a rapid pop-up to gain altitude after a high-speed attack. The other is a limited-radius turn after the attack to inspect or re-attack the target.
"The challenge is morphing quickly, and having the flight-control system keep up," says Dr Terry Weisshaar, DARPA programme manager. The test will involve 90kg (200lb)-class turbojet-powered unmanned air vehicles capable of rapid morphing between two wing shapes. NextGen's flight tests have been scheduled for January, at Camp Roberts, and Lockheed's for February, at the company's Helendale facility in California.
Boeing Phantom Works has joined NextGen as a subcontractor on its MFX-2 UAV, a larger twinjet version of the MFX-1 with improved flexible-skin wing design. Windtunnel tests start in November. Lockheed's design is based on its unsuccessful "Yellow Bird" folding-wing UAV, with a larger engine and new flight-control system supplied by Athena Technologies.
The small UAVs will use battery power to morph between two wing shapes "a couple of times" on each 30min flight, says Weisshaar. Controlling an aircraft that morphs during manoeuvres is challenging because conventional flight-control laws assume the vehicle's shape is constant.
"Vehicle state now includes geometry. Flight control is highly non-linear and rapidly time-variant," he says. "We have to prove we can control the aircraft during rapid manoeuvres."
Monday, August 14, 2006In 2004 the US Army and their partner, the IDF chose to cancel the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser program after having spent $400 million and being told that it would take another $400 million to get the thing operational and in the field.
The purpose of the planned MTHEL program was to develop and test the first mobile Directed Energy weapon system capable of detecting, tracking, engaging, and defeating Rockets/Artillery/Mortars (RAM), cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
In 2004, the MTHEL shot down about three dozen airborne targets in succession, including Katyusha rockets and mortars. It was very successful in that regard - the main drawback was the amount of money that it would take to get the system in the field and operational as well as it's size and cost of individual units once R&D was done.
Now it's 2006 and Israelis have once again been running for cover as air raid sirens wail warnings of incoming Katyusha rockets. Perhaps it's time to reflect now that there is a ceasefire ... I wonder if the damage to property and people in Israel is in excess of the $400 million it would have taken to get units in the field?
Had the MTHEL program continued, some of Hezbollah's rockets may have gotten through, but many more would have been vaporized in flight. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, chief of research and development for the Israeli military until 2002, recently said the system could have been battlefield-ready by now and he regrets that it was discontinued.
Well all is not lost.
Northrop Grumman last month unveiled their "son of MTHEL" system called the "Skyguard laser defense system". Building on the company's Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) program, Skyguard can protect ground troops, cities, etc from Rockets/Artillery/Mortars (RAM), the effective range is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Weather can degrade the system but not nullify it.
Northrop Grumman is in negotiations with the US services about using Skyguard to protect deployed forces, air bases or other military installations. It is also speaking with Israel, which co-sponsored THEL development, about buying Skyguard. Can Israel truly afford NOT to get the NGC Skyguard?
* Northrop Grumman intracompany business watch memo - July 27, 2006
* Israelis differ on missile defense: SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, Saturday, August 5, 2006
* Mobile / Tactical High Energy Laser (M-THEL) Technology Demonstration Program: Defense Update . Com
* Northrop Unveils Skyguard Laser Air Defense System: Aviation Week, 07/13/2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006Here's an interesting tidbit regarding a new stealthy radar technology. It seems to take the general concept of the F-22 Raptor's AN/APG-77 radar and build on it. The "77" is considered stealthy because it generates seemingly random RF and that is not easily detected by the enemy's SIGINT assets.
This new concept is however a bit different and I must say, sounds intrguing...
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University engineers have invented a radar system that is virtually undetectable, because its signal resembles random noise.
The radar could have applications in law enforcement, the military, and disaster rescue.
Eric K. Walton, senior research scientist in Ohio State's ElectroScience Laboratory, said that with further development the technology could even be used for medical imaging.
He explained why using random noise makes the radar system invisible.
"Almost all radio receivers in the world are designed to eliminate random noise, so that they can clearly receive the signal they're looking for," Walton said. "Radio receivers could search for this radar signal and they wouldn't find it. It also won't interfere with TV, radio, or other communication signals."
The radar scatters a very low-intensity signal across a wide range of frequencies, so a TV or radio tuned to any one frequency would interpret the radar signal as a very weak form of static.
"It doesn't interfere because it has a bandwidth that is thousands of times broader than the signals it might otherwise interfere with," Walton said. Like traditional radar, the "noise" radar detects objects by bouncing a radio signal off them and detecting the rebound. The hardware isn't expensive, either; altogether, the components cost less than $100.
The difference is that the noise radar generates a signal that resembles random noise, and a computer calculates very small differences in the return signal. The calculations happen billions of times every second, and the pattern of the signal changes constantly. A receiver couldn't detect the signal unless it knew exactly what random pattern to look for.
The radar can be tuned to penetrate solid walls -- just like the waves that transmit radio and TV signals -- so the military could spot enemy soldiers inside a building without the radar signal being detected, Walton said. Traffic police could measure vehicle speed without setting off drivers' radar detectors. Autonomous vehicles could tell whether a bush conceals a more dangerous obstacle, like a tree stump or a gulley.
The radar is inherently able to distinguish between many types of targets because of its ultra-wide-band characteristics. "Unfortunately, there are thousands of everyday objects that look like humans on radar -- even chairs and filing cabinets," he said. So the shape of a radar image alone can't be used to identify a human. "What tends to give a human away is that he moves. He breathes, his heart beats, his body makes unintended motions."
These tiny motions could be used to locate disaster survivors who were pinned under rubble. Other radar systems can't do that, because they are too far-sighted -- they can't see people who are buried only a few yards away. Walton said that the noise radar is inherently able to see objects that are nearby.
"It can see things that are only a couple of inches away with as much clarity as it can see things on the surface of Mars," he added.
That means that with further development, the radar might image tumors, blood clots, and foreign objects in the body. It could even measure bone density. As with all forms of medical imaging, studies would first have to determine the radar's effect on the body.
The university is expected to license the patented radar system...
Ohio State ElectroScience Laboratory