Category Archives: DARPA

Golden BB, DDG edition

Lost in the sauce in the past few days resulting in the excitement and afterglow of the recent NASA/SpaceX mission to the International Space Station was an interesting bit of space news.

Well, space/naval news, anyway: the first successful smackdown of a (simulated) ICBM at extreme altitude by a destroyer-launched SM-3.

As noted in a DOD presser:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System-equipped destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 16.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020.

“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” said Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Navy zaps drone via laser

Just missed May the 4th, but this just happened last week.

“Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 on May 16. ”

As noted by U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:

LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD’s operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by Northrup Grumman, with full System and Ship Integration and Testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.

“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland.

Has Vortex cracked the combat optic of the future?

Wisconsin-based Vortex Optics announced Monday they have entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army an agreement to deliver a possible component of the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.

The contract between the Pentagon and Vortex is an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement, an award type traditionally used to fund innovative prototype procurement and development of forward-looking technology. As such, Vortex will provide production-ready prototypes for use in Soldier TouchPoint evaluations.

The optic at the center of the OTA is Vortex’s 1-8×30 Active Reticle Fire Control, which the veteran-owned company explains is “built around a revolutionary technology based on many years of internal research and development, along with multiple cooperative development efforts with the Army’s PM-Soldier Weapons group.”

The Active Reticle has reportedly been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during Soldier TouchPoints in the past two years. In the case of a battery power loss, users still have an uncompromised 1-8x, direct-view optic and glass-etched reticle, which alone exceeds current optics.

And it looks pretty sweet.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Next Generation Squad Weapons abound

Groovy and very sci-fi looking new guns competing in the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program were shown to the public last week.

Intended to replace the current standard M4 Carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun, the new NGSW contenders — which use 6.8mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition with an EPR bullet– were on hand at the largest land warfare conference and tradeshow in North America: the Association of United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2019) last week in Washington DC.

General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems, which is working with True Velocity and Beretta, showed off their new RM277 NGSW platform, a bullpup with lots of modularity.

Notably, the gun uses True Velocity’s 6.8mm composite-cased cartridge, which has a “drastic reduction in cartridge weight and enhanced accuracy.”

Other contenders include a team made up of Textron, which has subcontracted with ammo maker Winchester-Olin and firearms maker Heckler & Koch, while Sig Sauer is going it alone.

In the below, BG Dave Hodne, Director SL CFT, and BG Potts, PEO Soldier, talk about soldier lethality and how the NGSW fits into the equation, below.

MIT is crossing the air-water boundary, or at least working on it

If an underwater submarine passes beneath a plane in the sky, there’s been no way for them to communicate with each other without having the submarine surface (or float a buoy), jeopardizing its location to an adversary.

Fadel Adib and Francesco Tonolini of MIT Media Lab, have developed a way to connect these seemingly dissonant mediums through something called Translational Acoustic-RF communication, or TARF. Using sound waves from underwater, and Radar from the air, messages can be transmitted by creating faint ripples on the surface of the water.

Packing non-carriers with stern-sitters, an enduring idea now new again

Below we see an “Artist Conception of the Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fighter concept, developed by the David W. Taylor Naval Ship and Research and Development Center, in various stages of flight and recovery positions near the 325-foot small waterplane area twin hull ship (SWATH),” received February 1981.

 U.S. Navy Photograph now in the collections of the National Archives. 428-GX-KN-31380:

Interestingly enough, DARPA has been working on a tail-sitter for the past several years, known as the Tern project.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency produced this concept art of a vertical take-off and landing capable maritime drone system as part of its earlier (TERN) program.

And it could wind up being the Marines’ new MUX drone, meant to be a poor man’s E2 Hawkeye/EF-18G Growler for use from LPDs and LHA/Ds.

More on that at The Drive

How about whistling up a drone Huey when you need resupply?

Well, this will help curb the great pilot shortage.

“The Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program successfully completed a final helicopter flight demonstration with autonomous capability at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The 2017 Robert J. Collier Trophy nominee, AACUS is a partnership between the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and technology company Aurora Flight Sciences that will enable the Marine Corps to rapidly resupply forces on the front lines using cutting-edge technology sponsored by ONR.”

It looks like ONR is picking up Sea Hunter

I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.

From DARPA:

DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).

The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.

ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.

Meet Nomad. It lives in a tube and could be a very interesting

The Naval Research Laboratory has been testing a light rotary drone called the Nomad from USS Coronado (LCS-4). The cool thing about it is that it is CO2 launched from a tube, and they can carry (and operate) multiple Nomads at once.

Civilian contractors from the Office of Naval Research conduct a test on a Nomad drone system aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4)

A Nomad drone launches from the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). The four -pack as shown looks like it is on a rolling cart and has a small footprint

Nomad drone lands on the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Note the second incoming at the top of the image

According to NRL:

The Nomad is a highly affordable expendable design, allowing for execution of its mission without concerns for returning to the ship. This new upgrade retains the original affordable expendable design, but now has a recovery feature that allows operators to retrieve and reuse the Nomad vehicles multiple times in support of development, testing, training, and potentially future operational missions.

A kinda interesting concept, especially if you allow the tech to grow to where a single LCS could serve as a “drone carrier” flying dozens or even possibly hundreds of small tube-launched Nomads or weaponized successors operating in swarms. Now that actually sounds like a useful littoral combat ship.

More here

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