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The Pentagon’s IED-Hunters Have a New Target: Drones

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The Pentagon’s IED-Hunters Have a New Target: Drones

(Source: Caroline Houck, DefenceOne | Photo: DefenceOne)
A short list of U.S. military outfits that develop tools and techniques to fight enemy drones includes DARPA, the services’ research labs — and now, the group created more than a decade ago to solve the IED problem.

Founded in the early 2000s as a taskforce with a budget of just $100 million, the agency now called the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Office, JIDO, has evolved over the years. First, it mushroomed into the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, JIEDDO, with a multibillion-dollar budget and a three-part mission that had it inventing counter-IED technology while simultaneously collecting intelligence and training troops on what to look out for. Then it shrank in a series of reorganizations that eventually housed it under the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

It’s a logical next step to tackle commercial drones

its director Lt. Gen. Michael Shields says.

We’re incredibly focused on counter-IED — the counter-[drone] work is really just a natural extension as an airborne IED,

he told reporters last week at a demonstration day the office hosted.

As small quadcopters and fixed-wing drones became cheaper and more accessible over the last few years, the Islamic State put them to use on the battlefield — for everything from conducting surveillance to dropping small bombs.

Historically, ISIS has been very adept at how they adapt and integrate improvised explosive devices. In the early days, [they had] an almost industrial capacity to do so

Shields said.

The natural extension of that was their use of the drones. I don’t see that going away.

Gen. Raymond Thomas, who leads U.S. Special Operations Command, called ISIS’s armed drones the past year’s “most daunting problem.”

About five or six months ago, there was a day when the Iraqi effort nearly came to a screeching halt, where literally over 24 hours there were 70 drones in the air,

Thomas told a special operations forces conference in May.

At one point, there were 12 ‘killer bees,’ if you will, right overhead and underneath our air superiority.

Though nowhere near as life-threatening to U.S. troops as the IED has been in the 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem jump-started JIDO’s rapid response arm. The office rushed two devices into theater in fewer than 60 days, and has been part of the U.S. military’s all-hands-on-deck response since. ISIS isn’t using drones to the same great effect they were at the start of the year, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria told Defense One last month. But JIDO is still building new tech to fight the armed drones, because officials say that just like with the other forms of IEDs — vehicle-borne, roadside bombs, booby-trapped buildings, and the like — ISIS will continue to innovate its tactics as the Pentagon pushes out new solutions.

We’re never finding the solution,

said Lisa Swan, JIDO’s deputy director for mission support.

We adapt, they adapt, we adapt, they adapt…sometimes we put things out there and it isn’t a long-term need because they have adapted and so we must move on to the next thing.

It’s the IED problem all over again, just airborne. And groups like ISIS are further advantaged by the drone industry itself, which JIDO scientist Hatch Tynes said is constantly innovating to make drones not just more capable, but also “idiot-proof” — easier to pilot and more resilient. There’s no equivalent commercial market driving innovation on the counter side.

Fighting drones — with drones
One approach JIDO is exploring, in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab, is getting spoofing equipment aloft on a fixed-wing unmanned vehicle. The idea, scientists from both organizations said at JIDO’s field day, is to marry the ground-based Negation of Improvised Non-State Joint Aerial threats (NINJA) that electronically takes command of the drone, with a surveillance drone called the Long-Endurance Aerial Platform (LEAP). Both technologies already exist and are deployed separately in Central Command.

Basically it’s going to sense drone systems from the air, and then take command and control of the drone itself,

said one JIDO scientist.

In short, they want to fight drones with drones. There’s still work to be done — miniaturizing the NINJA system to give the mated system a longer endurance, figuring out how best to use it with troops on the ground and the like. JIDO said it plans to demo the integrated platform next spring.

But it’s far from the only approach to realizing a battle of the drones. Another experimental platform JIDO had on display was a hard-kill option attached to the military’s own commercial drone — a DJI M600. Unlike the “soft kill” NINJA/LEAP combination which electronically disables the drone but leaves its mechanics untouched, this technology would give troops the option to physically stop a drone by ensnaring it in a net.

While previous devices have launched nets at enemy UAVs with mixed results, a copter drone displayed by JIDO and the Air Force Research Lab last week can sweep the air with an attached net, a promising approach both against single UAVs and the expected swarms of the future.

But before U.S. troops and partner forces can take down an enemy drone, they first have to be aware of it. Commercial drones are hard to hear, harder to spot, and not metallic enough to be picked up by radar. So JIDO’s looking at various sensors and detection systems, including things that pick out enemy UAVs by their acoustic signatures. But “the trick is always the noise,” Tynes said.

“It’s the same problem we have with IEDs on the ground. There’s so much clutter you end up getting a lot of false positives, false alarms. And when everything’s making noise, you turn it off.”

 The Pentagon’s IED-Hunters Have a New Target: Drones

JIDO director Lt. Gen. Michael Shields examines the hard kill option the office is developing with the Air Force Research Lab to take down enemy drones. © DefenceOne

An enduring threat
The U.S-led coalition may have ousted ISIS from its physical capitals in Raqqa and Mosul, but the threat it and other extremist organizations pose will continue. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said yesterday he believes ISIS will attempt to establish a physical presence outside Syria and Iraq and, barring that, will continue to link up with local insurgencies — as the Pentagon believes it did in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers were recently killed in an ambush by an ISIS-affiliated group.

“We’re at an inflection point in the global campaign, not an end point,”

he said.

And without a defined caliphate, will ISIS probably rely more on traditional insurgent tactics, like low-effort, asymmetric drone attacks? “The answer is yes,” Shields said. And they likely won’t be the only ones doing so.

“What I think is happening is other violent extremist organizations are going to school and observing,”

Shields said.

“The issue and the challenge with drones in Iraq/Syria is not an Iraq [and] Syria problem. It’s a regional one. It’s a global problem”

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GKN Aerospace Norway Announced a $66M Contract for F135 Engine Components

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GKN Aerospace Norway Announced a $66M Contract for F135 Engine Components
Photo credit: Wikipedia/F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Powerplant on display at Centenary of Military Aviation 2014

KONGSBERG, Norway (BulgarianMilitary.com) – GKN Aerospace Norway announced last week that the company has signed an eight-year contract with Pratt & Whitney for the manufacturing of F135 engine components that include diffuser cases, low pressure turbine cases and shafts, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

The scope of the contract also includes an extension for the supply of several shafts for other three types of Pratt & Whitney’s engines, and namely F100, JT8D and FT8.

Read more: Pratt & Whitney Received a $2 Billion F135 Delivery Contract

That agreement expands the involvement of GKN Aerospace in the F135 program and strengthens the role of the company as a long-term supplier of components for engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney.

The President of GKN Aerospace Engine Systems in Norway, Peter Hjortsberg, commented, “We are very proud to have entered into this contract, with our long term important customer Pratt & Whitney. This multi-year agreement is a great base for continued cooperation and will be beneficial for all parties involved. We look forward to further strengthening our relationship with Pratt &Whitney and to work together as one excellent team.”

The production of all covered engine components is carried out at the facility GKN Aerospace in Kongsberg. That facility is GKN Aerospace Engine System’s Centre of Excellence for Shafts.

The Executive Director of Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, O Sung Kwon, said, “This award reaffirms Pratt & Whitney’s commitment to F135 engine industrial participation in Norway. GKN Aerospace Norway competed globally and was selected as the best value supplier of these engine components, and will play a valuable role in our global supply chain for the F135 engine.”

Read more: The Belgian Fleet of F-16s Will Be Replaced by F-35As

The F135 propulsion system of Pratt & Whitney powers all three versions of the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft – the F-35A CTOL (Conventional Takeoff and Landing), F-35B STOVL (Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing), and F-35C CV (Carrier Variant).

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Source: GKN Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney

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17 New Projects Unveiled by the European Union

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17 New Projects Unveiled by the European Union
Photo credit: Stephanie Lecocq/AFP/Getty Images/NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini (R) during a EU Foreign Affairs Council-Defence meeting at the European Council in Brussels on 20th November 2018.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (BulgarianMilitary.com) — 17 new projects have been unveiled on Monday, 19th Novemeber 2018, by the European Union under its Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) defence pact, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

Read more: Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defence Partakes at Joint Session of the EU Defence and Foreign Ministers

These 17 new projects supplement the initial 17, which were agreed almost one year ago, and cover areas such as training, capability development and operational readiness on land, at sea and in the air, including cyber-defence.

PESCO is a Treaty-based framework and process for the purposes of deepening defence cooperation amongst EU Member States who are capable and willing to do so. The goal is mutual development of defence capabilities and making them available for EU military operations. In this way it is expected the EU’s capacity as an international security player to be enhanced, the protection of EU citizens to be supported and the effectiveness of defence spending to be increased.

Read more: Bulgarian Deputy Defence Minister Spoke about EU Defence Initiatives at The Economist Magazine Conference

The Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform, which is one of the newly announced projects, will develop more active cyber-defence measures and the goal is the traditional firewalls to be replaced by more active measures.

Under another projects it will be developed and built a prototype European armoured infantry fighting vehicle. The goal is the future vehicle class to ensure everything from combat and reconnaissance support to logistics, command and control, as well as medical support.

The scope of the Military Mobility package is support of the member states’ commitments in order to simplify and standardize cross-border military transport procedures, including improvement of the speed of movement of military forces across Europe as reported by a source at the European Defence Agency (EDA), based in Brussels.

Read more: The Ministers of Defence of the EU Member States Meet in Sofia

These are only some of the unveiled on Monday new objectives of the EU, welcomed by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in his speech at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, 20th Novemebr 2018.

“I have welcomed EU efforts on defence many times, because I believe that projects such as military mobility, European Defence Fund, PESCO, all of that can contribute to fairer burden-sharing within NATO. It can complement NATO and it can also help to develop new NATO capabilities and also address the fragmentation of the European defense market. So this is something I have welcomed many many, times,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

All weapons, developed through PESCO, will be owned by individual EU countries.

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BulgarianMilitary.com
Source: Defense News, European External Action Service (EEAS)

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RUAG and Elbit Systems to Form a Joint Venture

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RUAG and Elbit Systems to Form a Joint Venture
Photo credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/A logo of Swiss defence equipment maker RUAG at a branch in Zurich, Switzerland, 23rd March 2018.

BERN, Switzerland and HAIFA, Israel (BulgarianMilitary.com) – Last week the Swiss company RUAG and the Israel-based international defence electronics company Elbit Systems announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the companies to form a Joint Venture Company, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

Read more: Elbit Systems Held Industrial Cooperation Day for Potential Partners from Bulgaria

The new entity will be established in Switzerland with a joint team comprised of experts from both companies, who have already started their work in collaboration.

The CEO of RUAG Defence, Andreas Berger, commented, “We at RUAG Defence are looking forward to working with Elbit Systems and we are convinced that this collaboration will allow us to support the Swiss Army with our proven competence and professionalism.”

Read more: British Army Selects Elbit Systems UK to Provide Morpheus BMA Solution

The Joint Venture Company will allow the companies to synergize and leverage their respective competences and in this way it will serve as a national Communication and System Competence Centre of Excellence in support of the needs and requirements of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS). In addition, it will act as a knowledge centre for the purposes of the companies’ joint efforts with regard to a DDPS’ communication program of the Swiss Defence Ministry and other joint endeavours in the future.

Read more: Elbit Systems Presents Advanced Systems and Market Leading Capabilities at DSEI Exhibition 2017

“It is a privilege to be in a position to offer technologically advanced and operational solutions for the Swiss Armed Forces. We are proud to join forces with RUAG and believe that this collaboration will strengthen local support and engineering capabilities through transfer of knowhow,” said the Senior Vice President at Elbit Systems C4I & Cyber Haim Delmar.

About RUAG

The Swiss company RUAG develop and produce innovative products and services for customers all over the world and which are used on land, in the air and in space. The core business of RUAG Defence includes products and services for tracked and wheeled vehicles, realistic training for soldiers and reliable information and communication infrastructures, as well as protection solutions to counter ballistic and electromagnetic threats. Besides its sites in Switzerland, the company has branch offices and sales offices in France, Germany, Singapore and the Middle East, including partnerships all over the world.

About Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems is an international high technology company headquartered in Israel. It operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, C4ISR, unmanned aircraft systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, signal intelligence systems, data links and communications systems, radios and cyber-based systems.

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Source: RUAG, Elbit Systems

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GBU-49 Dropped from F-35A for the First Time during Training

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GBU-49 Dropped from F-35A for the First Time during Training
Photo credit: the United States Air Force/F-35A dropping GBU-49

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida, the USA (BulgarianMilitary.com) – The GBU-49 precision bomb made by Raytheon was dropped for the first time from the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II in combat training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

Lt Col Matthew Johnston commented, “Like any new weapon, what we learned, and what we will learn as we continue to train with the GBU-49, will directly impact our tactics and will make the F-35A even more lethal.”

Read more: First Automated Landing of an MQ-9 Block 5 Completed by USAF

The test was conducted on 7th November 2018 by the US Air Force (USAF) 388th Fighter Wing’s 34th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Hill AFB, Utah. According to the service, during the combat training, weapons crews, maintainers, and pilots were assessed on their ability to build, load, and drop the weapons.

USAF F-35A pilots are being trained in dropping of the GBU-49 bomb in flight simulators at Hill AFB, however continued live trainings are part of the plans for refining their tactics and techniques. As reported by the United States Air Force, further training on the Utah Test and Training Range with live and inert GBU-49 bombs will be soon organized.

Read more: The Two USAF Hypersonic Programmes Awarded to Lockheed Martin

The GBU-49 bomb is Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-12 bomb. Therefore, it is a converted “dumb” bomb, which is guided to its target through a laser and GPS. The precision weapon can be used against moving or stationary targets in a variety of weather conditions.

The F-35 Lightning II of Lockheed Martin is a family of single-seat, single-engined, all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is developed for ground-attack and air-superiority missions. Its main models are three: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) variant.

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BulgarianMilitary.com
Source: FlightGlobal

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