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Is Science Fiction holding us back?

SpaceWarfare-SWGMBBy Rory Colthurst, Conference Producer, Defence IQ

When I began investigating the state of the directed energy market for our Directed Energy Systems event, one thing that struck me from the outset is the inevitable comparisons to science-fiction. Something about laser beams and microwave weapons seems to strike a chord with our collective conscious, stirring up nostalgic memories of Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate …basically any TV show with “Star” in the title.

This raised an interesting question though – are these associations actually holding back the wider adoption of directed energy technology? After all, there’s a certain stigma in being seen to be chasing ‘a pipedream’ based on fantasy. Militaries are often portrayed as being highly conservative organisations, opposed to radical change. Helicopters were once sneered at, as were tanks before them – the same attitude can be seen throughout the history of warfare in fact! So is there any danger of this scepticism slowing down the rate of technological advance?

I posed this question to a number of people active in the directed energy field, and to a number of military officers as well. Their responses were unexpected, but it was fantastic to hear their enthusiasm for such a fascinating technology that’s full of potential.

The unanimous response was yes, militaries are conservative by nature but, if you demonstrate something works they will back you all the way. Of course, this is exactly what eventually happened in the case of helicopters and tanks – their utility was soon proven and their adoption was widespread, and today they are ubiquitous and still in demand.

Directed energy systems have been on the cusp of this breakthrough for some time, but it seems we’re finally seeing the years of effort coming to fruition. The U.S. Navy has the Maritime Laser Demonstrator deployed on the USS Ponce at this very moment, while Boeing & Rheinmetall also have functioning systems that are highly impressive. On the microwave side of things, Boeing again has made massive progress with the CHAMP while Diehl BGT continues to make advances with High Power Electro Magnetic technology. All of these companies and many more are going to be presenting the results of their latest tests at the annual Directed Energy Systems conference, taking place in London over the 28th-30th January 2014. If you’d like to learn more, then take a look at the brochure and the website before registering your place now, or contact our enquiries team at enquire@defenceiq.com

In addition to this, we will also be exploring the potential misuse of directed energy. Yael Shahar from the Institute for Counter Terrorism will be leading a workshop examining possible scenarios and the defences available. This is not to be missed, so book now!

Is Directed Energy Destined to Remain in the Realms of Fantasy?

By Mark Eastwood, Defence IQ

Earlier this week, during the monotonous morning tube journey into work which every Londoner dreads, I noticed that the man stood in front of me was reading a Military-based novel on his e-book reader. Glancing at the screen, I saw that the plot of the novel seemed to revolve around the debate over whether the United States should turn to non-lethal Directed Energy weapons in the face of some shadowy unknown enemy of the State for whom traditional ballistic weaponry had, seemingly, no effect. The protagonist made explicit reference to the Active Denial System (ADS) and seemed to be the only one arguing that this non-lethal directed energy weapon should be used.  Just as the man reading the book departed the train, I noticed that the main character was musing about the difference which would come with the inauguration of the first Female President; surely she, with all her clichéd maternal inclination, would see the benefits of using the non-lethal weapon. This led me to think about that very question – is a change of leadership mentality all that is needed to move Directed Energy Weapons into operation?

The answer is, of course, not simply that black-and-white. But, having looked at the history of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) over the past decade, I would argue that until a significant change in the mind-set of policymakers occurs, Directed Energy Weapons will never see the light of day, regardless of how many technical problems are overcome.

Directed Energy Weapons have been in development, in one form or another, since Regan’s ill-fated Strategic Defence Initiative, or as it more infamously became known, Star Wars. Whilst the modern DEW has developed a long way since that system, the principles remain the same – harnessing energy, either a laser-beam or High Powered Microwave, and projecting it onto an object to render some kind of effect.

Early Directed Energy Systems were so fraught with technical issues that they remained firmly in the realms of scientists, and some of the more imaginative Sci-Fi writers, but over the past decade, technological advancements have made Directed Energy Systems much more feasible. Whilst military-grade Directed Energy weapons are still faced with problems over power, heat capacity and size, many would argue that once these issues are overcome, the world’s military will open their arms to these systems; marking a significant shift in the weaponry we see on the modern battlefield. And, whilst this may indeed be the case, I would argue that it is in fact highly unlikely.

The reason for this takes me back to the original point I made: Directed Energy Systems will not see the light of day until an organisational and governmental mind-set change is achieved. As discussed above, some would have us believe that this is not the case and that technical restrictions are the real inhibiting factor for Directed Energy. For such arguments, there is one significant piece of evidence which undermines their argument – The Active Denial System.

Mentioned in the Tube passenger’s book, the ADS is a system designed for area denial and crowd control. By emitting high powered microwaves, it is designed to heat a person’s skin to an unbearable level so that they have to flee from its range, but without being injured. The safety of the device when used against humans has been tested thousands of times, all yielding no unpleasant results. Indeed, so successful did the device prove in testing, that it was sent to Afghanistan for use by the US Military. Yet, for all the positives associated with the system, it was not used in Afghanistan and was quickly withdrawn. The reason for this? The policy makers and high-ranking military officials were worried about the bad-press using this system would generate. Stories of the US using “Death-Rays” against the Taliban and civilians in Afghanistan posed too much of a PR headache for the US and so the system, which had proved time and time again to cause no harm, was withdrawn.

Now, one might argue that this was a sensible decision given the bad press the US already received in Afghanistan. However, this doesn’t alter the fact that the current mind-set surrounding Directed Energy led to its withdrawal. Efforts to re-invent the ADS after this set-back led to it being introduced into an LA jail, as a method of riot control. However, one of the lead scientists involved in the project, told me that the project was pulled, “at the eleventh hour due to concerns from federal government over how the system might be interpreted”. Yet again, the mind-set of the political leadership, fuelled by death-ray science-fiction of the past, led to the withdrawal of the system before it was even used.

I find it hard to believe that this mind-set has changed so much in the past 12 months that any Directed Energy System which became viable now would be accepted immediately. In fact I believe that until Directed Energy can get away from its current associations, it is destined to remain stuck in the laboratory and the pages of fictional novels.

The future of Directed Energy Systems, both at a technical and a policy level will be discussed in-depth at Defence IQ’s Directed Energy Systems 2013 Conference. For more information, and to learn what the experts believe the future holds for Directed Energy, view the full agenda here.

An armoured vehicles news update…

Contributed by Kim Vigilia, Defence IQ

In recent news, the British Army has announced an order for 51 additional Foxhound Vehicles and Lockheed Martin has provided an update on the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle upgrade for improved lethality systems. Given these headlines, it’s clear that priorities for many western military nations are not only to provide necessary mine and blast protection for soldiers in Afghanistan, but also to ‘future-proof’ these vehicles up until 2040.

However, defeating the IED threat and securing future survivability are just two of the main issues facing land defence leaders. There are also challenges within situational awareness and communication enhancements, weapon station integration and the balancing act of creating the ‘perfect’ environment for simulating armour and mechanised training. Add to that the basic foundation and maintenance of supply chains and other processes to remain efficient and effective… the list goes on.

Taking these issues into account, the International Armoured Vehicles show (IAVs) has a programme which is designed to reflect these challenges and offers a platform on which senior leaders in land defence can discuss, debate and swap ideas on the potential solutions and where they foresee the future of armoured vehicles. Lieutenant General Jonathan Page, Commander FDT and Major General Andrew Sharpe, DG DCDC from the UK Ministry of Defence will lead sessions at IAVs where Foxhound and Warrior are sure to be key talking points.

Defeating the IED threat, once and for all?

According to the press release published by General Dynamics in regards to the Foxhound Vehicle order, “The value of the award is approximately $73.6 million, or £46 million.”  In light of the drawback from Afghanistan, that’s still quite a significant investment for a light weight vehicle which specifically features countering IED capabilities, confirming the fact that C-IEDs is still one of the most critical challenges for militaries to overcome.

IAVs has a dedicated pre-conference day to focus on Countering IEDs to complement the main conference plenary sessions at IAVs, which features a panel discussion with Commander Abdulrazaq Olapeju Kazeem, Commander of the Nigerian Army’s Headquarters Bomb Disposal Squadron as well as Major General Ruben Dario Alzate Mora, the Head of Land – Materiel & Commander of the 1st Army for the Colombian Army and Robert Shaw, Head of C-IED Training for NATO ISAF.  The panel will be posed questions from the audience focusing on whether the future of C-IED efforts will be non-expeditionary.

With the Nigerian Army looking to acquire Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain vehicles to advance its strategy in defeating home-grown terrorism, the resulting conversation from the panel discussion should prove interesting to military peers and potential industry partners.

“IED incidents in Nigeria have been quite serious and challenging, however, because of proactive and pre-emptive measures put in place by the Nigerian Government and Security Forces, the threat is receding,” Kazeem told Defence IQ, citing the reduction in frequency of both attacks and casualties. “The Nigerian Army Bomb Disposal is tackling the rising IED incidents by employing global best practices in locating, rendering safe and disposal of IEDs.”

What does the future battle space look like and how can we ‘future-proof’ armoured vehicles?

Deemed as the British Army’s “key priority,” the £1 billion Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) is one of the largest and most significant projects being pushed through the MoD as it seeks to upgrade and refit the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle with improved lethality systems and an electronic architecture that will future-proof it until 2040.

So what does this armoured vehicle of the future look like? Brigadier General Andrew G. Hughes, Director of Combat Capability at the UK Ministry of Defence, will open IAVs with a keynote speech, “Showcasing the Work of Combat Capability in the Content of the Army 2020 Strategy: Future Armour and Protected Mobility Requirements” – so we might find out then!

If you’d like to find out more about the International Armoured Vehicles 2013 event please click here.

Defence industry opening up to Open Architecture

Judy Cerenzia is the director of Collaboration Services at the Open Group, a US organisation providing services to consortia comprised of government agencies and suppliers with the goal of assisting them in meeting the demands of moving to an open system approach. Defence IQ’s Richard de Silva spoke with her to get a better idea as to how this work is changing the face of the defence industry…Judy, rather than try to do this justice myself could I ask you to perhaps tell us a bit more about the Open Group before we begin? Who do you work with, how are you engaging with those partners in the government or indeed with the private industry to essentially smooth the road for Open Architecture?

Yes, I can do that. The Open Group is a global consortium in itself that enables achievement of business objective through IT Standard, Open Standards enabling Open Architectures. We have more than 400 member organisations and 8,000 individual participants. We have a diverse membership that spans all sectors of the IT community and we have customers, systems and solution suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, consultants as well as academic researchers. They all work together to capture, understand and address current and emerging requirements, establish policies and share best practices for IT related applications as well as development of open standards for open architectures. We, the Open Group, our role is the neutral party, we facilitate interoperability, help with team members to develop consensus and evolve and integrate their standards and specifications in open source technology. We also offer a comprehensive set of services to enhance operational efficiency of consortia such as the FACE consortium – Future Airborne Capability Environment consortium – which is one of our managed consortia hosted by the Open Group. And after technical standards are developed we also offer the industry’s premier certification service to ensure that products that are developed in accordance with requirements defined in a technical standard can be certified as conforming to that standard with a stamp of approval. That gives it some meat in the market as far as trademark use and things like that. We also publish a wide range of technical documentation most of which is focused on developing Open Group standards and guides but it also includes white papers, technical studies, certification and testing, testing documentation and other business titles associated with the efforts that are ongoing within the Open Group.

You mentioned FACE – I’m wondering whether we can just drill down into that a little bit more. Could you perhaps give us some insight into what this particular standard has entailed and what advantages it should offer businesses, governments, and of course the warfighters?

The FACE consortium is actually the one I am most familiar with; I am the program director for FACE under the collaborative services umbrella in the Open Group. So the FACE consortium is aviation focused and we are a professional group that’s made up of US industry suppliers, customers who are mostly government, currently NAVAIR – naval aviation – and the army, PEO aviation in the army research branch for missiles. We’re working to get the air force on board as well so that we have all three branches of our military representing us as customers, and we also have users of the products, the end products, who were involved in developing the technical standards. The FACE consortium provides a vendor neutral forum for both industry and US government to work together to develop and consolidate open standards, best practices, guidance documents and business models. One of our rules is to not reinvent the wheel. If there’s a standard out there that is already available that will meet the needs of a certain portion of the FACE technical standard we will include that as part of a profile so that we can leverage some of the work that’s already been done versus doing it again ourselves.

In January 2012 the FACE consortium released the first edition of the FACE technical standard by having the standard out and available to the public so that vendors can develop products in accordance with it. The products are intended to reduce life cycle costs and time to field new capabilities to our warfighters. We’re hoping to do this by introducing a standard common operating environment within the avionic software industry that is based on open standards and this will support portable capability based applications across DoD avionic systems. We’re doing this government and industry partnership in attempts to obtain industry and DoD program management endorsement as well so that there’s buy in from the customer level and those who are going to be procuring products to be conformant to the FACE technical standard. Again, this is to facilitate conformance to the standard so that we maximise and can ensure interoperability between applications with an avionic system. And there are several advantages that are specially applicable to the war fighter as well as government and industry. FACE is providing open standards and standard software interfaces within the software stack for avionic software. By having this standardised we increase software portability, we’re promoting reusable software capability, the consortium has also established a business model that has been official to both industry and government because by standardising and opening up the software stack we want to make sure that there is still competition among the industry partners who are involved and also foster innovation. And by doing all of this we enhance and accelerate the capabilities that are going to be available to the warfighter, which is our bottom line.

This is an extract of an interview conducted ahead of Defence IQ’s Interoperable Open Architecture conference. Read the full interview and download the full agenda here.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts – do you agree or disagree with this post? Email comments or article submissions to: haveyoursay@defenceiq.com or comment below.

Prince Harry arrives in Afghanistan, show some respect

by Andrew Elwell, Editor, Defence IQ

Captain Wales has arrived in Afghanistan for a four month tour of duty as an Apache helicopter pilot five years on from his first stint at Camp Bastion.

It’s been 47 minutes since media outlets were allowed to report on the story after being given permission to do so by the MOD following an agreement to keep it under wraps until the Prince had safely landed in Afghanistan. All of them (that I’ve read, so far) have made reference to his antics in Las Vegas and Twitter has come alive with “chopper” jokes.

This is poor form, surely?

It’s difficult to ignore the furore that Harry created a few weeks ago in Nevada, and it would be naïve to think it wouldn’t get a mention following today’s news, but taking a more responsible tone should be the order of the day.

Regardless of background, Harry is a Captain in the British Army.

He is a highly trained soldier with skills invaluable to the mission in Helmand Province. It’s not cheap to train an Apache pilot – last year he said, “You become a very expensive asset, the training’s very expensive and they wouldn’t have me doing what I’m doing (otherwise).”

Over the last decade the British Armed Forces have come to be seen as a highly prized institution by the public, achieving a level of admiration not seen since 1945. Harry is a part of that institution and he should be afforded the same respect we would endow to any other soldier serving in Afghanistan.

So please, no jokes. Nor sniggering.

Good luck Captain Wales.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts – do you agree or disagree with this post? Email comments or article submissions to: haveyoursay@defenceiq.com or comment below.

Highlights from Eurosatory, IMS and Farnborough

By Asif Anwar, Strategy Analytics

Eurosatory

Eurosatory is held in Paris on a biannual basis with Eurosatory 2012 continuing to focus as an event centered on land and air platforms. The event boasted over 53,000 attendees and included a new focus on security this year including cyber. There were a range of technologies showcased at Eurosatory 2012 emphasizing the importance of enhancing capabilities and meeting the needs of SwaP-constrained platforms.

The growing use of COTS-based platforms was also highlighted by both DRS Technologies and Harris with the introduction of ruggedized, Military-grade Android-based handheld computer and tablet products. Elektrobit’s Counter-RCIED platform was demonstrated as a potential tool for convoy mission planning. Rohde & Schwarz was emphasizing the use of IP technologies for radio communication platforms. Finally, there was a range of radar technologies on show with Cassidian, FLIR and Camero showing solutions targeting applications from border surveillance to through-wall imaging.

IMS 2012

IMS 2012 was held in Montreal, Canada for the first time in its 60 year history and a strong industrial program was complimented with a good mix of technical sessions and social events. While attendance was flat, there was an overall increase of around 40% year-on-year in the number of paper submissions.

Main themes that came out of the technical sessions centered on low cost millimeter-wave technologies based on Si CMOS. Terahertz technologies also continued to be a key topic with new concepts and a look towards integrated devices. Finally, nanotechnology was discussed in technical sessions with tunable devices including MEMS-based switches looking to commercial markets. Other areas of interest identified included energy harvesting, wireless energy transmission and the use of RF technologies in biomedical applications as well as the role RF will play in the “Internet of Everything”.

On the show floor, there was a positive atmosphere with companies focused on both commercial and defense markets. Strategy Analytics was also on the show floor to kick off a series of Richardson RFPD Supplier presentations where we outlined our thoughts on how GaN is becoming a pivotal technology in the defense sector. Strategy Analytics’ breakfast session at IMS 2012 was held in conjunction with Microwave Journal this year and included participation from Cree, Nitronex, NXP, RFMD, TriQuint and UMS with the presentations serving as a platform to confirm the applicability of GaN to addressing communications, electronic warfare, and radar applications.

The need for wideband communications including demand from the UAV and SATCOM sector at Ku-band and the need to address Ka-band requirements from SOTM, missile seekers and other communications applications is also driving opportunities for GaN device suppliers. However, while GaN technology hits a lot of the parameters being asked for by military system designers, other technologies including TWTs, LDMOS and SiC will also continue to play a role in future defense system design.

Farnborough 2012

Finally, the Farnborough International Airshow 2012 took place in July acting as a conduit for the trade, with orders and commitments covering a total of 758 aircraft and worth $72 billion. More impressive, given the current economic uncertainty was the fact that the order value represented a 53 percent increase on 2010.

Attendance was equally impressive with just over 107,000 trade visitors and over 1500 exhibitors with representation right across the supply chain. Over 70 military delegations from 46 countries attended with a further 13 delegations from the civil sector. The UK Prime Minister opened the show, and other UK Cabinet members made keynote speeches, with other senior ministers visiting from the UK and overseas.

Over 140 aircraft took part in the static and flying displays at the Farnborough Aerodrome in Hampshire. While the Airbus A400M was unable to fly (again!) due to mechanical issues, the Airbus A380 was in attendance and other flying display highlights included the Korean T50 jet trainer, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab Gripen Fighter.

Perhaps surprisingly, the continuing requirement for a range of technologies was emphasized during meetings at Farnborough. TMD Technologies was showcasing its S-band TWT solutions as well as highlighting the capabilities of the company’s X-band 8kW PAMs which can be combined with up to 12 units to enable land-based radar solutions and provide the graceful degradation typically associated with GaAs and GaN-based AESA systems. On the GaAs front, Plextek’s Blighter B400 FMCW/Doppler Ku-band PESA radar was being demonstrated and Eletronnica was also showcasing GaAs-based solutions with the Virgilius EW system which provides both ESM and jamming functionality based around an AESA RF front-end.

In conclusion, there were a range of technologies showcased at all the shows with radar, communications and electronic warfare capabilities and requirements driving demand for technologies that can enhance the capabilities of existing platforms as well as meet the ever growing need to optimize SWaP parameters across both existing and emerging platforms.

Clients of the ADS service can read the full reports on the Eurosatory, IMS and Farnborough shows:

Defense Technology Highlights from Eurosatory 2012
RF Technologies for Defense at IMS 2012 Centered on GaN
Satellites, UAVs, Radar and Travelling Wave Tubes at Farnborough 2012

Read more Defence IQ articles by Asif Anwar

Paramount Group the next Google? An African success story

In an interview with Defence IQ, Ivor Ichikowitz, the founder of South Africa’s Paramount Group, discusses the state of the African defence industry and the company’s unique, indigenous AHRLAC programme.

Read the full interview here.

Streit Group unveils new Jaguar armoured vehicle

This week at Eurosatory the Streit Group, a manufacturer of armoured vehicles based out of Canada with offices worldwide, unveiled its new offering: the Jaguar.

Read all about the new APC here.

F-35: B vs. C

ITEC: The top 5 technologies

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