USAF buys more Block 30 GCS.. spinning up for increased Combat Air Patrols

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General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a $32,326,408 delivery order (0010) to previously awarded contract FA8620-15-G-4040 for Block 30 ground control station production undefinitized contract action effort.

Work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2018. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2015 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $16,151,200 are being obligated at the time of award.

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It’s Official, Improved Gray Eagle to Enter Production for US Army

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The Army has awarded a contract to General Atomics for full-rate production of 19 Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) unmanned aerial systems, the company has announced. The systems will be delivered by September 2018.

General Atomics also manufactures the highly acclaimed Predator and larger Reaper, both of which are operated by the Air Force.

According to General Atomics, “IGE is a next-generation advanced derivative of the Army’s mission-proven Gray Eagle UAS that has accumulated over 228,000 flight hours since 2008.” While the Gray Eagleand Improved Gray Eagle are very similar in terms of air speed, flights ceiling and payload, they differ in endurance. The IGE’s endurance capability is almost double that of the Gray Eagle—48 hours to 25 hours respectively—though the Army lists the Gray Eagle’s endurance at greater than 30 hours in its UAS Roadmap.

The Gray Eagle is weaponized, capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles. The IGE will deliver “improved, game-changing capabilities that will perform ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] collection and close air support of ground forces through longer persistence, a variety of sensor and weapons payloads, and extended range that affords the ability to operate from safe locations and transit into areas of conflict,” General Atomics said.

Since there are relatively few differences in software and operation, the IGE can be easily integrated with existing Gray Eagle units.

As the Defense Department seeks to increase the number of daily drone orbits, or combat air patrols, by  nearly 50 percent by 2019, DOD will be relying on the Army, Special Operations Command and, to a smaller degree, contractors to pick up the extra slack from the Air Force, which will operate 60 CAPs. By 2019, DOD wants 90 CAPS to address the gaps in aerial ISR with threats seeming to continue to proliferate.

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ScanEagles for Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan

Foreign military sales fit nicely with AFRICOM shortfalls in Airborne ISR..

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Insitu has received three export contracts for its ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle that will see it deliver the system to Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan.

Under the USA’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, Cameroon and Kenya will receive one ScanEagle system each by September 2016, through deals worth $9.39 million and $9.86 million respectively, the US Department of Defense announced on 29 September.

The acquisitions for Cameroon and Kenya will include 50% of the work on each contract being carried out in-country, and will see the delivery of analogue medium wave infra-red ScanEagle UAVs, launch and recovery equipment, ground control stations, Insitu video exploitation systems and ground support equipment for the governments, says the contract notice

General Atomics to Improve 19 Gray Eagles

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, was awarded a $47,499,986 modification (P00033) to undefinitized contract W58RGZ-13-C-0109 for an improved Gray Eagle engineering change proposal applicable to 19 aircraft, four lots of ground support equipment and one lot of unique initial spares. Work will be performed in Poway, California, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2018.  Fiscal 2015 other procurement funds in the amount of $23,274,993 were obligated at the time of the award. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

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Insitu wins second drone award in two weeks.. USMC off and running with RQ-21A Blackjack

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Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, has won a $6.9 million order to support the Navy’s RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system.

The RQ-21A Blackjack provides tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition data collection and dissemination capabilities, according to the NAVAIR website.

Under the contract, Insitu will provide technical studies, conceptual design modifications and engineering development.

Work will be performed in Hood River, Ore., Bingen, Wash., Boardman, Ore., Webster Field, Saint Inigoes, Md., and Patuxent River, Md., and is expected to wrap up in June 2017.

In late August, Insitu won an $8.8 million Navy contract to support the Blackjack at the Marine Corps air stations at Cherry Point, N.C., and Bingen, Wash.

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Joint High Speed Vessel Experimenting w/Scan Eagle & Puma Drones

Atlantic Ocean -- (August 7, 2015) This photograph taken by the RQ20A Aqua Puma unmanned aircraft system shows an aerial view of USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) underway during Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 (SPS-JHSV 15). SPS-JHSV 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Atlantic Ocean — (August 7, 2015) This photograph taken by the RQ20A Aqua Puma unmanned aircraft system shows an aerial view of USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) underway during Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 (SPS-JHSV 15). SPS-JHSV 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

As the Navy tries to figure out what to do with its growing fleet of Joint High Speed Vessels, a recent experiment showed the platform could serve as a staging base for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Navy Warfare Development Command partnered with U.S. 4th Fleet and Military Sealift Command to put the Scan Eagle and Puma unmanned aerial systems on USNSSpearhead (JHSV-1) for two two-week periods this summer, with positive results.

Lt. Mark Bote, the experiment lead for the Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 Fleet Experimentation (FLEX) – conducted in conjunction with the Southern Partnership Station series of events – said the idea of the dual-UAV operations was to determine how Puma and Scan Eagle “could fit into potential adaptive force packages in the future and how to use the JHSV in a more diverse way.”

The Navy knows the JHSV – with its large mission bay, high speed and flight deck – could be used for more than its intended mission of intratheater lift. The Navy is now running experiments like this one to study which ideas for adaptive force packages would optimize the platform’s capabilities and combatant commanders’ needs.

As a whole, Bote said the 2015 FLEX agenda focused on several mission areas, including expeditionary mine countermeasures, JHSV as an afloat forward staging base, expanding JHSV’s maritime command and control, and JHSV as a counter-trafficking platform. TheSpearhead experiment with Puma and Scan Eagle helped inform both the AFSB and counter-trafficking portions.

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DARPA Gremlins: Exploring Drones launched / recovered from Airborne “aircraft carriers”

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The military has two types of long-range weapons systems: missiles that can be fired from great distances and are never seen again, and complex aircraft that remain in use for generations. What they have in common expense, whether they’re one-and-done munitions or aircraft that are costly to build and maintain.

The Pentagon’s lead research arm wants another alternative, looking to develop relatively cheap drones that can be launched from large aircraft or fighters, attack a target or conduct ISR, and then be retrieved in-flight.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced aprogram it’s calling Gremlins, looking to prove the feasibility of affordable unmanned systems that can be safely launched and recovered in the air, spreading the payload and airframe costs over as many as 20 uses instead of just one. In addition to reusability, DARPA hopes that the program could save money by making use of existing unmanned aircraft rather than designing new models.

Gremlins—named for the imaginary, mischievous creatures that boosted morale among British pilots in World War II—builds on an idea DARPA put forth in November, with a Request for Information on the idea of using large aircraft, such as C-130 transport or the B-52 bomber as “aircraft carriers” for small drones.

Under the Gremlins plan, groups of drones would be launched from large aircraft such as the C-130 or B-52, or from fighters or other smaller aircraft while those manned aircraft are outside the range of an adversary’s defenses. After the gremlins carry out their mission, a C-130 would round them up and take them back to base, where they could be set up for their next mission within 24 hours, DARPA said.

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U.S. Navy is also working on a drone that can fly and swim underwater


Always on the lookout for new and creative ways to gather information in hard to reach locations, the United States Naval Research Laboratory (USNRL) has quietly been developing a drone that can not only fly through the air, but also swim underwater.

Called “Flimmer”, the device has been under development for about two years, with research being spearheaded by Dan Edwards who works in the Vehicle Research and Tactical Electronic Warfare section within the USNRL. The Vehicle Research Section, according to the Navy, is “dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art in unmanned systems technology.”

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Boeing planning drone that can transform into a submarine


Ambitious endeavor, Boeing recently submitted a patent for a new kind of drone capable of transforming into a submarine upon entering a body of water. Before you get too excited, do bear in mind Boeing’s amphibious drone may never actually see the light of day — like so many other outrageous patents — but even so, it’s still fun to speculate just how much fun it would be to pilot one of these.

According to the patent, which was discovered by the keen eye of YouTube user PatentYogi, Boeing’s land to sea drone requires the help of a host aircraft in order for it to successfully launch. After it’s propelled into the air by its host, the drone then navigates to either a predetermined or happened-upon location in an ocean, lake, or other body of water before diving to the surface. Once it breaches the water source, it then begins to dismantle its propellers and wings to allow it to move through the water more easily. Boeing intends for this to occur by outfitting the drone with exploding bolts or glue that dissolves when it comes in contact with salt water.

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Army Gray Eagle/Apache Team Supporting Minesweeping Operations in Arabian Gulf

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NORTHERN ARABIAN GULF – Three Soldiers from the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade boarded the USS Higgins Aug. 19, 2015, for an interoperability training mission named Spartan Kopis. Their mission involved integrating efforts between the crew members aboard the USS Higgins, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache aircraft and the operators of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

The Gray Eagle UAS provided live feeds to personnel ashore in the Tactical Operations Center, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache, and the personnel in the combat room aboard the USS Higgins. Flying between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, the primary function for the Gray Eagle UAS is to search ahead for other threats of watercraft while minesweeping boats clear sections of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

“The Army and the Navy have been given a great opportunity to enhance the overall value of the Army Gray Eagle asset,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Murphy, the flight operations officer with Company F, 1st Aviation Regiment. “The Gray Eagle demonstrated its versatility by providing reconnaissance, security and target acquisition for the USS Higgins during an overwater mission.”

Tasked with leaving an enduring footprint in Southwest Asia, the Gray Eagle UAS units are continuously working with U.S. Navy Central Command for planning and executing interoperability missions. “This training allows the Navy to see what the Army can bring to the table,” said Lt. Dan Sledz, the weapons officer for the USS Higgins.

“The fusion of different branches of service is essential to an effective fighting force,” said Spc. Kenneth Poore, a geospatial imagery intelligence analyst with the 185th TAB. “Whether in a mountain range of Afghanistan or the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf, being able to visually see the battlefield through full motion video and what is beyond line of sight is critical to any operational element,” said Poore.

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