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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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Oshkosh Defense Announces Two Orders Totalling $235.2 Million

Oshkosh Defense Announces Two Orders Totalling $235.2 Million

OSHKOSH (Wisconsin, the USA), May 25, 2018, Author: Galina Zdravkova, Photo: Wikipedia

The tactical vehicle manufacturer, Oshkosh Defense, announced on 23rd May 2018 that it was awarded two delivery orders at the total amount of $235.2 million from the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). The scope of the agreement includes recapitalisation of vehicles in the heavy vehicle fleet of the U.S. Army, reported Shephard Media.

The recapitalisation of the vehicles in the army’s Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) and Palletised Load Systems (PLS) fleets will involve upgrading to the latest configuration and the same zero-mile, zero-hour condition as new vehicles.

Under the contract 410 vehicles will be recapitalised and 680 new PLS trailers will be manufactured. Deliveries will start in the Fiscal Year 2019.

“The mark of any good investment is its ability to withstand the test of time. The longevity of the HEMTT and PLS fleets combined with the durability of the platform attest to the value of these mission critical vehicles,” said Pat Williams, VP and general manager of army and marine corps programmes for Oshkosh Defense.

More than 13,000 HEMTT and 3,000 PLS has been recapitalised by Oshkosh Defense since 1995.
The Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) is an eight-wheel drive, diesel-powered with weight of 9,100 kg.

The Palletized Load System (PLS) is designed to carry ammunition and other critical supplies.

Photo: U.S. Army soldiers unload a Mk2 Bridge Erection Boat from a M1977A2 CBT HEMTT into the Missouri River

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Bulava ICBMs Were Test Fired from the Yury Dolgorukiy Submarine

Bulava ICBMs Were Test Fired from the Yury Dolgorukiy Submarine

MOSCOW (Russia), May 25, 2018, Author: Bm News Team, Photo: Wikipedia (K-535 Yuri Dolgorukiy at sea trials)

On 22nd May 2018 four Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were test fired from the Yury Dolgorukiy nuclear submarine of Russia. The test was successful. That was announced by the military in a statement, which was quoted by the state news agencies, reported Shephard Media.

The missiles were fired from the submerged Yury Dolgorukiy submarine in the White Sea on the north-western coast of Russia. The Navy’s northern fleet revealed that the target was a military test ground on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula.

According to the Navy it was the first time when such a number of missiles are fired from such a type of submarine. The tactical and technical characteristics and reliability of the Yury Dolgorukiy strategic missile submarine and the Bulava missile system were confirmed.

The weight of the Yury Dolgorukiy submarine is 14,720 t. It reaches the speed of 46 km/h. The submarine is from the fourth-generation Borei class of strategic submarines and is designated to carry the Bulava intercontinental nuclear-capable missiles. The first sea trials of that submarine began on 19 June 2009 and the submarine was commissioned on 10 January 2013.

The Bulava is a submarine-launched ballistic missile developed for the Russian Navy. The operational range of the missile is reported to be 8,000-8,300 km, and the accuracy – 350 m.

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AeroVironment Announces a New Switchblade Order

AeroVironment Announces a New Switchblade Order

TAMPA (Florida, the USA, at SOFIC), May 23, 2018, Author: Galina Zdravkova, Photo: AeroVironment

On 22nd May 2018, the manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems for both military and commercial purposes, AeroVironment, Inc., announced that it has received an order from the U.S. Army for the Switchblade Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) and logistics support. That takes the total value of Switchblade awards to $111,054,202 since August 2017. The agreement has been concluded in April 2018 and involves the first Switchblade order for the needs of the United States Marine Corps.

The vice president and general manager of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment of AeroVironment, Kirk Flittie, explained “Switchblade is a highly effective and mature smart weapon system that delivers unmatched force protection and precision strike capabilities to American forces with minimal to no collateral effects. Man-portable and lightweight, Switchblade is a uniquely powerful LMAMS solution for today’s complex combat environments. AeroVironment stands ready, with a battle-proven product, supply chain and production system, to respond rapidly to this and future requirements to ensure U.S. and allied forces can proceed with certainty.”

The AeroVironment Switchblade features rapid-response force protection. The strike is precise with a range of up to 10 km from the launch location. Besides its extremely preciseness, it has specialized effects and wave-off capability and impresses with its compact dimensions – it fits in an ALICE pack and weighs about 2.5 kg. The warheads of the Switchblade are supplied by the Orbital ATK – a global leader in the aerospace and defence technologies sector.

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Lockheed Martin Awarded BAE Systems a $100 Million+ Contract

Lockheed Martin Awarded BAE Systems a $100 Million+ Contract

LONDON (United Kingdom), May 23, 2018, Author: Bm News Team, Photo: BAE Systems

The global security and aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, has awarded BAE Systems a contract exceeding the amount of $100 million. The duties of BAE Systems under the contract include maintenance and replacement of the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft electronic warfare systems, reported FlightGlobal.

The scope of the contract includes management of the supply chain for the electronic warfare system and maintenance of local warehouses with on-hand inventories of major components.

BAE Systems is the manufacturer of the electronic warfare suite for the needs of the F-35 of Lockheed Martin, known as the AN/ASQ-239 Barracuda system. The avionics and sensors of the system provide a 360-degree view of the area surrounding the aircraft, detecting and geo-locating electronic emitters for giving the pilots the opportunity of evading, engaging, countering or jamming threats. All these capabilities are of great importance in terms of the purposes for which the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft has been designed, and namely – ground attack and air superiority missions.

BAE Systems specified that the contract has been agreed to be based on performance-based logistics and that repair and upgrade of the ASQ-239 is included. Under the contract we will see the company supporting all F-35 versions and customers all over the world.

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