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

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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Raytheon Will Advise the Kingdom of Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court on Cybersecurity

Raytheon Will Advise the Kingdom of Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court on Cybersecurity

FARNBOROUGH, the UK (BulgarianMilitary.com), 20 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Raytheon

Raytheon will advise the Kingdom of Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court on cybersecurity. The decision was announced by Raytheon on Tuesday, 17th July 2018. The Intelligence, Information and Services business of the company will ensure cyber defence solutions and counsel for the purposes of protecting systems and infrastructure of key importance within the Kingdom of Jordan, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

The President of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services Dave Wajsgras commented, “The cyber threat is increasing globally. We’ve been protecting large scale systems for decades and know how to help nations protect themselves from those who want to exploit our interconnected world. That’s what we do.”

The cybersecurity services that will be provided by Raytheon for the needs of the Royal Hashemite Court for defending its most important infrastructure systems will also include execution of vulnerability evaluations, cyber test range services, as well as cyber governance and policy strategy. The Royal aviation fleet will pass a holistic vulnerability evaluation in order to be checked if all integrated systems are strengthened and resilient to cyberattacks.

About the Royal Hashemite Court of the Kingdom of Jordan

The Royal Hashemite Court of the Kingdom of Jordan is the administrative and political link between the King of Jordan and the Jordanian regime which includes constitutional authorities (governmental, legislative and judicial), the Armed Forces and the Security Services. It is also the primary body responsible for supervising the relationships between the King and the Jordanian people.

About Raytheon

Raytheon is company with a history of 96 years headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is a technology and innovation leader offering products and services for the needs of the defence sector, as well as civil government and cybersecurity solutions for customers in more than 80 countries. The company features $25 billion sales and 64,000 employees for 2017.

Thanks to its experience, commercial best practices, and advanced technology Raytheon is capable of identifying and mitigating threats to systems, networks and equipment for various global commercial and government organizations.

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Lockheed Martin Team up with Rafael for Evaluating Potential SPICE Markets

Lockheed Martin Team up with Rafael for Evaluating Potential SPICE Markets

FARNBOROUGH, the UK (BulgarianMilitary.com), 20 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Lockheed Martin/Lockheed Martin with Rafael SPICE Agreement

Lockheed Martin announced on 16 July 2018 that the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., the largest employer in Northern Israel, for evaluating customer requirements and potential markets for the SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective) missile guidance kits of Rafael, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

Yuval Miller, the Executive Vice President and Head of the Air & C4ISR Division of Rafael, commented, “SPICE is a leading air-to-surface weapon system offering U.S. and international air forces operating Lockheed Martin’s platforms, as well as strategic bomber aircraft, an important complement to their existing operational capabilities,” and added, “SPICE’s unique features greatly enhance the U.S.’ ability to operate in contested environments. We are excited to engage in cooperation with Lockheed Martin to make SPICE available as a U.S.-made system, adapted to fully meet U.S. standards.”

The SPICE missile guidance kit is a family of autonomous, stand-off, air-to-surface weapon systems that can destroy targets with pinpoint precision and at high attack volumes in a GPS-denied environment. It is combat-proven and currently in service with the Air Force of Israel and several international customers. The SPICE weapon system involves a state-of-the-art electro-optical seeker featuring unique scene-matching algorithms, navigation guidance and homing techniques for the purposes of operational missions in all-weather conditions without GPS.

The Memorandum of Understanding concerns the following missile guidance kit versions: SPICE 1000 (belonging to the 453 kg weight class) and SPICE 2000 (belonging to the 907 kg weight class).

The Strategy and Business Development VP at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Dan Norton said, “Lockheed Martin has a long history of successfully providing customers with missiles and missile systems that are affordable, proven and in production. This partnership will allow us to share our precision guided system and aircraft integration expertise with allies that can benefit from the mission flexibility that the SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 offer.”

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The US Army Will Operate Raytheon’s Coyote UAVs

The US Army Will Operate Raytheon’s Coyote UAVs

FARNBOROUGH, the UK (BulgarianMilitary.com), 19 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Raytheon

The U.S. Army will operate Raytheon’s Coyote UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) as counter-drone defence with Ku-band radio frequency system fire control radars, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

The quantity purchased by the U.S. Army is undisclosed as of the moment.

The Coyote UAV is a tube-launched vehicle developed for chasing down enemy UAVs and destroying them in flight with a small fragmentation warhead. Fire control radar directs the Coyote to the target.

Thomas Bussing, Raytheon’s vice-president of advanced missile systems, commented the deal at Farnborough, “We are currently under funding by the US Army to develop and deploy these devices by the end of this year. We had a demonstration with the army where we flew 12. Eleven were successful. One had a launch misfire, but the other 11 all hit their targets.”

Bussing explained that he armed drones are may take down quadrotor helicopters and other Class 1 and Class 2 unmanned air systems and added that knocking down quadcopters from the sky turned out to be more challenging than expected.

“These quadcopters are actually fairly challenging. They have a resin structure, which is actually very difficult to penetrate. They are very resilient to small arms fire and so forth. But the warheads are very capable of destroying them,” further clarified Bussing.

The Coyote UAVs allow launching from a ship, land, or air. That unmanned air vehicle may be flown individually or in swarms. It is a good solution for electronic warfare, surveillance, and counter-UAV missions. As a swarm Coyote UAVs may be used for attacking groups of vessels or targets ahead of a shore assault.

Bussing underlined that the Coyote airframe is exportable, but its electronics and warhead are not.

The Raytheon’s Coyote can operate up to 1 hour and is developed for interchangeable payloads. It is operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for hurricane tracking and is assessed by the U.S. Air Force and Army as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance asset.

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Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman’s Joint Venture with Contracts at $170 Million

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman’s Joint Venture with Contracts at $170 Million

FARNBOROUGH, the UK (BulgarianMilitary.com), 19 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Lockheed Martin / The LONGBOW FCR is effective in adverse weather.

LONGBOW LLC (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Corporation) and the U.S. Army have concluded contracts at $170.5 million for provision of LONGBOW Fire Control Radar (FCR) hardware for Apache AH-64E helicopters in support of the U.S. Army lots 7 and 8 and three other international customers, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

That was announced by the global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin in a news release yesterday, 18th July 2018.

Jim Messina, LONGBOW LLC president and director of LONGBOW programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control commented, “We remain focused on delivering significant upgrades and products as quickly and efficiently as possible. This contract allows us to supply the U.S. Army fleet with REUs, which is the foundation for future enhancements like extended range, maritime mode and unmanned aerial systems detection.”

The contracts cover LONGBOW FCR key components Mast Mounted Assemblies (MMA) and Radar Electronics Units (REU), as well as spare parts for the U.S. Army, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Qatar. Through this deal Qatar becomes the 13th international customer to operate LONGBOW FCR.

The LONGBOW system searches, detects, locates, classifies and prioritizes automatically multiple moving or fixed targets on land or in the air, in any weather conditions, and in obscured battlefields.

The manufacturing under the contracts will be performed at the facilities of Lockheed Martin in Orlando and Ocala (Florida) and Northrop Grumman in Baltimore (Maryland) and is expected to continue till April 2021.

“The LONGBOW FCR REU continues to provide outstanding capabilities to our customers. The REU provides growth capabilities to LONGBOW FCR while reducing space, weight and power, along with maintenance cost,” underlined the LONGBOW LLC vice president and vice president Advanced Tactical Systems, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems Susan Bruce.

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