US, Russia and China in Hypersonic Weapons Race for prompt global strike capability, Strategic bombing from outer space and defeating all missile defenses

US, Russia and China are in race for Hypersonic Weapons that shall revolutionize warfare by providing prompt global strike capability and defeat all missile defences. Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound (Mach 5 or 6,125 kilometers per hour) or more. Flying along the edge of space while gliding and maneuvering these missiles would strike targets with unprecedented speed and precision.


Brad Leland, Lockheed’s program manager for Hypersonics makes the case for the jet on the company’s website, stating: “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour… Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today.” Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, they will be able to avoid triggering early-warning systems or detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception.


The United States and Australia have concluded a series of hypersonic test flights at the Woomera test range in South Australia. The tests were conducted under the auspices of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFIRE) programme, says Australia’s Department of Defence in a statement. In the statement, defence minister Marise Payne said that the tests have achieved “significant milestones, including design assembly, and pre-flight testing of the hypersonic vehicles and design of complex avionics and control systems.”  US intends to develop a sea-launched hypersonic cruise missile by 2018-2020, and a hypersonic aircraft by 2030. Australia and other countries are also developing hypersonic weapons.


Recently China tested  DF-17  its first hypersonic glide vehicle-equipped missile intended for operational deployment. Chinese DF-ZF (previously designated as the WU-14) is a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle that has been flight-tested by the Chinese seven times, on 9 January, 7 August and 2 December 2014; 7 June and 27 November 2015; and again in April 2016. The strategic strike weapon is extremely advanced and can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,231.01kph. Also, American defense officials said the vehicle, which speeds along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, demonstrated a new capability during the latest test: that it was able to take evasive actions.


DF-ZF could be used for nuclear weapons delivery but could also be used to perform precision-strike conventional missions (for example, next-generation anti-ship ballistic missiles), which could penetrate “the layered air defenses of a U.S. carrier strike group. Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, they will be able to avoid triggering early-warning systems or detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception.


The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its latest annual report that the China’s hypersonic glide vehicle program is “progressing rapidly” and the weapon could be deployed by 2020. China also is building a powered version of the high-speed vehicle that could be fielded by 2025.


Russia already successfully tested the Yu-71 hypersonic glider several times and will deploy a regiment of them armed with nuclear warheads by 2020, according to US sources. According to multiple reports, Russia is expected to begin production soon of its 3M22 Zircon, a hypersonic missile that will travel 4,600 miles per hour — five times the speed of sound — and will have a range of 250 miles. That’s just three minutes and 15 seconds from launch to impact. Guided hypersonic missiles will be more accurate than traditional ballistic missiles and could conceivably be armed with nuclear warheads, according to the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor.

Hypersonic Weapons

Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds—five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and beyond—offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance. While US wants to develop strike targets at any location  on earth within one hour using conventional warheads, China and Russia are aiming to defeat US missile defence system.


Hypersonic weapons can be Tactical Boost-Glide type, the approach already tested by both Russia and China: a rocket motor boosts the missile up to hypersonic speed, after which it glides to the target. The goal is to “skip” off the atmosphere like a skipping stone over water, allowing it to go vast distances at extreme speeds. Getting this to work requires progress in aerodynamics, stability, and controls, as well as materials, Bussing said. 3D printing can help in all these areas.


An “air-breathing” hypersonic vehicle, by contrast, flies under its own jet power the whole way. This approach allows less range than boost-glide but greater maneuverability. Air-breathers can also be significantly smaller. A rocket has to carry large amounts of oxidizer to burn its fuel. A jet just sucks in oxygen from the atmosphere. But normal jets don’t have to suck in air moving at Mach 5-plus. A jet that works at hypersonic speeds will require some breakthroughs — and, again, 3D printing can help grow the exotic components.



China developing hypersonic, precision-guidance, and boost-glide technologies

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a U.S. military program to develop weapons—mainly missiles—that can strike targets at any location on earth within one hour using conventional warheads.  Some analysts have argued that, if the United States were to launch these missiles during a conflict, nations with minimal satellite capabilities and launch notification systems (such as China) or degraded launch notification systems (such as Russia) could conclude that they were under attack with nuclear missiles.


China fears the system will be used to knock out its nuclear missiles on the ground in the early stages of a conflict. According to Saalman, “Chinese analysts view PGS as part of a larger U.S. effort to achieve ‘absolute security,’ with BMD as the shield and PGS as the sword.


China is conducting substantial research into both countering and developing hypersonic, precision-guidance, and boost-glide technologies, with the DF-21D and WU-14 weapon systems as just two recent examples, according Dr. Lora Saalman, Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.


DF-17: China’s Newly Tested Ballistic Missile Armed With a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

According to a U.S. government source who described recent intelligence assessments on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) on the condition of anonymity, China recently conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17 that is equipped with a “hypersonic glide vehicle” (HGV). The first test took place on November 1 and the second test took place on November 15.


HGVs are capsules on the top of a missile that hold the payload. They break apart from the main body of the projectile after it has reached its highest altitude, and glide to the target until impact.


The source said that the DF-17 was a medium-range missile system that had a range between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers. It is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads, and may be able to be configured to have a maneuverable reentry vehicle instead of an HGV.


Hypersonic gliders, by virtue of their low-altitude flight,  are difficult to detect with existing  missile defence radars, hence gives less time for interception . However  HGVs  are considerably slower in the final stages of their flight than most reentry vehicles on a ballistic trajectory to take place before the payload can reach its target. This may leave them vulnerable to interception by advanced terminal point defense systems.


DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, which the US calls Wu-14

Beijing for the seventh time successfully flight-tested its DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, which the US calls Wu-14, at the Wuzhai missile test range in the central portion of China. The strategic strike weapon is extremely advanced and can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,231.01kph. The six previous tests conducted in 2014 and 2015 also having been successful. Glide vehicles are lifted to the high upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles and then glide at speeds five times faster than the speed of sound


Also, American defense officials said the vehicle, which speeds along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, demonstrated a new capability during the latest test: that it was able to take evasive actions. “At a minimum this latest test indicates China is likely succeeding in achieving a key design objective: building a warhead capable of withstanding the very high stress of hypersonic maneuvering,” Rick Fisher, a China military expert, told the WFB. “It is likely that the test vehicle will form the basis for a missile launched weapon.”


“The Wu-14 is designed to penetrate US missile defense systems, meaning the PLA is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty. But such a test is only a nuclear deterrent. Neither China nor the US wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues,” said Professor He Qisong, a defense policy specialist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.


Analysts suspect that the WU-14 will first be used in shorter-range roles as an anti-ship missile. China has already believed to have developed advanced capabilities for precision ASBM strike against U.S. aircraft carriers and other naval forces operating in the western Pacific, at ranges between 1,500 and 2,000km, under its sea-denial strategy.


China is also believed to be developing capability on an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) variant that adopts a boost-glide for long range precision strikes – at least out to 8,000km – against a broad range of targets, including ships at sea.


The National Air and Space Intelligence Center has testified to Congress that China’s hypersonic glide vehicle will be used to deliver nuclear weapons. A variant also could be used as part of China’s conventionally-armed anti-ship ballistic missile system, which is aimed at sinking U.S. aircraft carriers far from Chinese shores.

China’s commercial Jilin satellite system also indicates the emergence of China’s Prompt Global Strike (PGS) capabilities.

The Jilin-1 group of satellites consists of 4 satellites: one 450-kg major satellite with a resolution ratio of 0.72 metres, two dexterous image taking satellites with a resolution ratio of 1.3 metres and one checking satellite with dexterous image taking. Chinese sources say that by 2030 there will be 138 satellites in the Jilin satellite system with a return visit speed of 10 minutes.


It is expected that the satellites will become smaller with higher resolution. The PLA will use that satellite system to help its intercontinental PGS system update its targets.


“China’s hypersonic weapons development program is probably less developed than the American program, but China might be able to develop its program more quickly,” said James Acton of the Nuclear Policy Program and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


US hypersonic technology programs

US government agencies are developing hypersonic technology for short-term and long-term goals. The near-term goals are hypersonic weapons that are expected to mature in the early 2020s and unmanned surveillance aircraft in the late 2020s or early 2030s, with hypersonic vehicles to follow in the longer term. Air-breathing access to space is a much longer-term goal. The general development strategy is to start small with weapons and to then scale up to aircraft and space vehicles as the technology and materials mature, reports Janes.


Raytheon has been awarded a USD 174 million contract for work on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme, according to a 28 October Pentagon announcement. USD3.4 million of the cost-plus-fixed-fee deal was awarded, according to the announcement. HAWC is a joint project with the US Air Force (USAF) to “develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile”, according to DARPA.


Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are both working on HAWC projects. The latter is also working on DARPA’s Tactical Boost-Glide (TBG) programme. Both HAWC and TBG are feeding into the USAF’s High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) effort, which the service intends to demonstrate around 2020.


Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, as they will be able to avoid detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception. “The very high speeds of these weapons, combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes, would make them far less vulnerable than existing missiles to current missile defenses,” the commission stated.


These developments threaten the U.S.’s strategic missile defense technology to be obsolete before its fully deployed, on which US has spent more than $100 billion, according to 2011 Arms Control Association report. Some nonproliferation scientists, have expressed the doubts that they may carry Nuclear weapons as well.

US Prompt Global Strike (PGS)

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a U.S. military program to develop weapons—mainly missiles—that can strike targets at any location on earth within one hour using conventional warheads. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict.


The 2006 QDR noted the need for prompt global strike capabilities to provide the United States with the ability “to attack fixed, hard and deeply buried, mobile and re-locatable targets with improved accuracy anywhere in the world promptly upon the President’s order. The 2010 QDR also noted that “enhanced long-range strike capabilities are one means of countering growing threats to forward deployed forces and bases and ensuring U.S. power projection capabilities.”


In 2003, the Air Force and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initiated a program, known as FALCON (force application and launch from continental United States) that was designed to develop both a launch vehicle similar to a ballistic missile and a hypersonic reentry vehicle, known as the common aero vehicle (CAV) that, together, would provide the United States with the ability to meet the requirements of the prompt global strike mission.


US is funding several hypersonic programs: Lockheed Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2, Air Force’s Force Application and Launch from Continental United States, known as FALCON, Raytheon Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and the Raytheon/Lockheed Tactical Boost Glide. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency gave Raytheon $20 million and Lockheed $24 million for the latter.


DARPA indicated that the goal for the HTV-2 program is to develop a vehicle that can launch into the Earth’s upper atmosphere and descend across the Pacific Ocean with speeds of more than 13,000 miles per hour. It should be able to travel from Vandenberg Air Force Base to a target near Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 30 minutes.


The Army is also developing a hypersonic glide vehicle, known as the advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW). Like the HTV-2, the AHW would use a hypersonic glider to deliver a conventional payload, but could be deployed on a booster with a shorter range than HTV-2 and, therefore, may need to be deployed forward, on land or at sea.


The Army conducted a successful flight test of the AHW on November 17, 2011.  The system launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, and used the strategic targets system (STARS) booster stack, which is derived from the Navy’s Polaris ballistic missile. According to press reports, the vehicle traveled 2,400 miles, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii to Kwajalein Atoll. The test collected data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance. The mission also tested the thermal protection technologies for the vehicle, an area where concerns exist because of the high temperatures generated during flight.

DARPA’s Tactical Boost Glide (TBG)

The Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that aims to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems. In a boost glide system, a rocket accelerates its payload to high speeds. The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.

The boost-glide hypersonic weapons would offer certain unique attributes to military planners. Compared to ballistic missiles, boost-glide weapons have potentially 5 to 10 times the speed of sound, nearly double the range, can generally transport a heavier payload over a given range, are capable of midcourse maneuvering, and fly at lower altitudes.

The TBG program plans to focus on three primary objectives:

  • Vehicle Feasibility—Vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic and aerothermal performance, controllability and robustness for a wide operational envelope
  • Effectiveness—System attributes and subsystems required to be effective in relevant operational environments
  • Affordability—Approaches to reducing cost and increasing value for both the demonstration system and future operational systems

DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme

Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds—five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and beyond—offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance.


The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. These demonstrations seek to open the door to new, responsive long-range strike capabilities against time-critical or heavily defended targets. The program intends to emphasize efficient, rapid and affordable flight tests to validate key technologies.

HAWC plans to pursue flight demonstrations to address three critical technology challenge areas or program pillars—air vehicle feasibility, effectiveness, and affordability. Technologies of interest include:

  • Advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient hypersonic flight
  • Hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise
  • Approaches to managing the thermal stresses of high-temperature cruise
  • Affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches
  • HAWC technologies could also extend to future reusable hypersonic air platforms for applications such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and space access.

Russia developing several air- and sea-launched hypersonic missiles

Russia is reportedly developing several hypersonic weapons systems, including air- and sea-launched missiles.

According to analytical website, this year Russia successfully tested its experimental Yu-74 hypersonic glide vehicle. The Yu-74 was carried by the intercontinental-range RS-18A (NATO codename: SS-19 Stiletto) ballistic missile system. The glider was launched from the Dombarovsky missile base in the Orenburg region and hit a target located at Kura Missile Test Range in northern Kamchatka region, the Russian Far East. Russia’s new Yu-74 ultra-maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles may become yet another response to the deployment of NATO’s missile installations in Eastern Europe, according to analytical website Ostkraft, says Sputnik.

Last year Russia conducted a series of tests of the Yu-71 hypersonic attack aircraft. The Yu-71 is part of secret missile program codenamed “Project 4202.” The glider was said to reach speeds of up to 7,000 miles per hour. Due to its outstanding maneuverability and high speed the system can overcome any defense shield, Ostkraft noted.

Russia tested a hypersonic missile in February 2015, WFB reported. According to military experts in the United States, Russia is testing a new hypersonic attack aircraft, the Yu-71 that reportedly has the capability to carry nuclear warheads that can penetrate missile defence systems. It has also been suggested that Russia is particularly working on devloping episodic weapons systems that can be launched by both land and sea-based means.

Russia has also  testing its hypersonic cruise missile “Zircon”, which is expected to be put into mass production in 2018, as reported by Tass source in the Russian military-industrial complex.  Settings “zircon” remain secret. Open sources report that the range of the new missile can reach up to 400 kilometers, and its flying speed will exceed the speed of sound in five or six times.

The hypersonic missile—which is a component of the 3K22 Zircon system—will be incorporated into the nuclear-powered Project 11442 Orlan-class battlecruiser (NATO: Kirov-class) Pyotr Veliky when it completes its overhaul in late 2022, as reported by Dave Majumdar. “The Admiral Nakhimov heavy missile cruiser’s deep modernization envisages the replacement of the warship’s missile strike system. As a result, the vessel will get the Zircon hypersonic missiles,” a source told TASS.

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy is developing a hypersonic strategic bomber capable of striking with nuclear warheads from outer space, Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov told RIA Novosti. A trial model of Russia’s nuclear-capable outer space strategic bomber will be developed by 2020, according to its developer. The jet will be very capable and will need only one-two hours to reach any place on Earth through outer space.

Russian commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, had earlier reported that the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy has already developed and tested an engine for the experimental aircraft.

“The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace. Upon command it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base,” Solodovnikov told RIA Novosti.

Called the PAK-DA strategic bomber, the hypersonic aircraft – which will be invisible to radar – will be armed with a special hybrid Turbofan engine, making it capable of low-level space flight. The bomber will burn traditional kerosene fuel when flying inside the earth’s atmosphere. However, once in space, the engine switches to methane and oxygen which allows the PAK-DA to fly without air.

“We are cooperating with Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute on the design of an airframe and the aircraft’s characteristics. I think that its lift-off mass must be 20-25 metric tons for it to be a strike aircraft. It will [be able to accelerate to] hypersonic speed in rocket mode,” he added.

Russia is also developing the P-800 Onyx, which some experts suspect could be a hypersonic missile as well. “It could be a fundamentally new missile, possibly hypersonic”. Russian officials have said their hypersonic arms development is aimed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses.

Army General Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy minister of defense, told reporters that the ministry has developed a special new fuel to enable missiles to fly at hypersonic speeds.

India and Russia developing hypersonic cruise missiles

Unlike the U.S. and China, both of whom focus their hypersonic development efforts on boost-glide vehicles, Russia and India are seeking to build hypersonic cruise missiles. NPO Mashinostroeyenia, is collaborating with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop BrahMos-II or or BrahMos Mark II, a hypersonic cruise missile expected to have a range of 290 kilometres (180 mi) and a speed of Mach 7, expected to be ready for testing by 2017.

According to the company’s website, the BrahMos-II will be powered by a scramjet engine instead of a ramjet one. “As a variation of the ramjet,” the company explains, “scramjets allow combustion to occur in a supersonic airflow, thereby expanding the operating range above Mach 4.”


Traditional Missile Defense Obsolete

Ballistic missile defense systems based on velocity and trajectory of a ballistic missile path use mathematical algorithms to determine interception points to accurately guide an intercepting missile. The predictable ballistic trajectory of ballistic missiles makes them vulnerable to land and naval-based interceptor missiles,

The Hypersonic glide vehicle defeats this logic by not traveling in a predictable ballistic path. It is launched like a ballistic missile, but it stays within the atmosphere skipping and gliding irregularly across thin air before going downward hypersonically into a highly maneuverable and evasive path before striking its target.

The high maneuverability and the hypersonic speed make it very difficult to be intercepted by exo-atmospheric kill vehicles as well as lessens the time it can be detected, fired at, or reengaged if there is a miss.

This development threatens the U.S.’s strategic missile defense technology to be obsolete before its fully deployed, on which US has spent more than $100 billion, according to 2011 Arms Control Association report.

References and  Resources also include:

Militaries developing Lethal, extremely maneuverable, Autonomous and stealthy Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV)

An unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as a combat drone or drone, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that usually carries aircraft ordnance such as missiles. Aircraft of this type have no onboard human pilot. These drones are usually under real-time human control, with varying levels of autonomy. While several nations possess and manufacture unarmed UAV, only the United States, Israel, Italy, China, India, Pakistan and Turkey are at present known to have manufactured operational UCAV as of December 2015.

The  MQ-1 Predator and its larger  cousin, MQ-9 Reaper, dual intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-strike platforms have been highly successful against non-state actors as part of the counterterrorism fight. However, these slow-moving and relatively low-flying aircraft make them susceptible to advanced anti-aircraft batteries and radars employed by near-peer competitors in what are described as anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments.

Russia is known to operate some of the most sophisticated enemy air defenses in the world. Russian-built air defenses, such as the S-300 and S-400, are now better networked to one another, have faster processing speeds and are able to detect fighter aircraft on a wider range of frequencies, making it much more difficult for even stealthy fighters and bombers to operate.  Countries are now developing next generation of UCAVs that can operate in  anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments.

Future Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) would be large, comparable in size to fighters, combat capable, stealthy and highly sophisticated systems designed to be deep penetrating and stealthy strike aircrafts. In addition, they will be highly agile and supersonic, armed (aircraft ordnance) such as missiles, but with limited persistence. Carrier based advanced UCAVs of this type have also been proposed in the US.

UCAV Roles and Missions

The UCAV concept covers a wide range of systems with many different characteristics. Michael Franklin was until recently a researcher in the Military Sciences Department of the Royal United Services Institute UCAVs, classifies them into three types.

Armed Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)

UAVs like General Atomics Predator and Reaper, both of which have been used during the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are primarily used in ISR roles, but are armed to provide lethal effects if required.

Large, advanced, stealthy UCAVs

These UCAVs are highly sophisticated systems that are designed to be deep-penetrating and stealthy strike aircraft. They can be used to perform long-range bombing campaigns against fixed ground targets and for the suppression or destruction of air defence assets especially those against heavily defended targets. SEAD missions, such as destroying enemy surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites,  requires searching for targets and then acquiring and engaging once they are detected.

In the long-term, they could be used to gain control of the airspace. These systems will be operating in very hostile environments in the quest for Air Superiority and Air Supremacy. They would be required to conduct air-to-air engagements from long-range and also at close quarters. Examples of this type of system include the UK Taranis demonstrator programme, the now-terminated US Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) programme and the European nEUROn programme.

A carrier-based version of this type of UCAV could be used to increase naval reach, conducting sea-based surveillance, naval strike and the suppression of enemy air defence missions. However, UCAVs have not yet demonstrated high decision-making skills and situational awareness of a human pilot, hence being employed for air-to-air combat against other aircraft is still far off.

Small, agile, expendable UCAVs

Small, agile, expendable UCAVs, with airframes similar to large, long-range cruise missiles, are potentially a third type of UCAV. They would be much smaller than other UCAVs, and so would be hard to detect and, unlike a cruise missile, they would be reusable. These UCAVs would be suitable for penetrating air defence systems and could deliver small weapons from close range against an array of ground targets. If such a system could be developed at low cost, they could operate in extremely hostile environments as they would be expendable.

An example of this type of UCAV is the Lockheed Martin Minion concept. The proposed system is a cruise missile like, air-launched unmanned aircraft, which is able to carry a payload of four precision-guided small diameter bombs or, as an alternative, an electronic attack payload. Engagements would be controlled from the launch aircraft, before the Minion returns to a forward operating base, landing using
its own retractable landing gear. The aircraft is estimated to cost substantially less than a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM).


Extremely Maneuverable

Since UCAVs do not need to carry equipment necessary for a human pilot (such as the cockpit, armor, ejection seat, flight controls, and environmental controls for pressure and oxygen), they have lower weight and size than a manned aircraft, they can be designed to be extremely maneuverable, and stealthier. Their extreme maneuverability will allow them to make very high g moves and even evade missiles. However, because being typically smaller than manned, they are not able to carry much fuel and are typically tailored to specific kinds of missions and not as versatile as a modern multi-role fighter.


Highly Autonomous

These drones are designed to be more autonomous to enhance their survivability. Unlike current military drones such as the General Atomics Reaper, which are generally flown by ground based “pilots,” the new model would have the autonomy to reach its own operational decisions and would contact ground personnel only to initiate attacks, Martin RoweWillcocks, BAE’s head of business development for future combat air systems, said in a briefing at the company’s Warton plant in northwest England. BAE Systems Plc lifted the veil on plans for the world’s first combat drones, saying it’s working toward a scenario in which the unmanned warplanes will fight alongside piloted aircraft rather than instead of them.

The processing speeds of computers and algorithms aimed at increasing autonomous activities have continued to evolve at an alarming rate, creating a fast-moving circumstance wherein drones will increasingly take on more and more functions by themselves, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview. Computer algorithms will enable drones to conduct a much wider range of functions without needing human intervention, such as sensing, targeting, weapons adjustments and sensor payload movements, ranges and capabilities, he added.


Weapons Technologies

Armed ISR UAVs will be operating in relatively benign environments in which a state of air superiority has been achieved. They will be able to approach targets at close range and so will employ low-cost and simple guided munitions. The payload capacity of current armed ISR UAVs is also much lower than manned aircraft. Small, lightweight,  precision missiles, including Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles, Raytheon Paveway Laser Guided Bombs and Boeing JDAMs, have been successfully integrated on to armed ISR UAVs. The power available is also less, hence small size, weight and low cost Jamming units have been developed. The US Hunter joint tactical unmanned aerial system is an example of an operational UAV that can conduct electronic attack missions.

Large, advanced, stealthy UCAVs shall have higher payload capacities than armed ISR UAVs and shall carry conventional air-to-ground cruise missiles in their internal weapon bays to improve the stealth characteristics of the airframe.They will be very high-value assets, and so will stand off to ensure survivability and will require more complex stand-off weaponry. Conventional air-to-ground cruise missiles for UCAVs may be superseded by smaller missiles that are classed as micro-munitions.

The development of micro-munitions is dependent on the advancement of Microelectromechanical System (MEMS) and Nano Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) technologies. Micro munitons shall also be useful for armed ISR and small expandable UCAVs.

In the future UCAVs shall  deploy Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs), which could be used for both the attack of ground targets and self protection. One of the  potential DEW technology for the future is high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. A HPM weapon generates continuous or pulse microwave beams that could be directed at a target potentially turning any unhardened electronics into molten silicon.

Electromagnetic bombs, or E-bombs, may be used to destroy the electronics of its target – a radar system, GPS system, radio system or a computer. At an appropriate range from the target, a short and powerful burst of electromagnetic pulses (usually in the microwave range) is released. Small E-bombs delivered in a projectile, similar to a conventional cruise missile can be used in all classes of UCAV to deliver extremely localised effects.  The main advantage of these systems is that the duration of the pulse is so short that they are potentially non-lethal; an attack could spare human lives and leave buildings undamaged. As such, E-bombs are ideal for use in urban environments, where the level of collateral damage is critical. Electromagnetic warheads could be integrated into missile suites similar to GAMs (GPS Aided Munitions) and JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions).

A second future DEW technology for UCAVs is high-energy laser weapons. DARPA’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems. The project goal is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system with maximum weight of 750 kg (1,650 lb) and maximum envelope of 3 cubic meters (70.6 cubic feet).

According to The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), enemy threats to aircraft, both manned and unmanned, have grown increasingly sophisticated and necessitate a powerful response. HELLADS could be the answer, with lasers to counter multiple threats with the power and the speed of light. In addition to defense purposes, combat lasers could also be of great help in offensive missions, as they would allow for precise targeting while minimizing the extent of collateral damage.

Finally, in the long-term, UCAVs may be used to gain control of the airspace and so will require weapons for air to- air engagements. In this role UCAVs will be acting as unmanned fighter aircraft operating in hostile environments. These aircraft will be very high performance systems, operating with high speed, agility and a high degree of  autonomy. They would be required to conduct air-to-air engagements from long range and also at close quarters. Examples of Air Superiority and Air Supremacy weapons that are being integrated into today’s advanced manned fighter aircraft are MBDA’s ASRAAM and Meteor. It is possible to envisage that similar weapons could be integrated into advanced UCAVs in the long-term.


Militaries around the world are pursuing UCAV R&D programs

France begins Naval testing of Neuron UCAV 

Europe’s nEUROn unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator was presented in flight in June 2016 at an air meet at Istres organized by the French Air Force. It is the first time in world aeronautical history that a stealth aircraft controlled from the ground has flown in public. Dassault Aviation conducted a formation flight of the nEUROn UCAV with a Rafale fighter and a Falcon 7X business jet in March 2014, marking the world’s first operation in which a combat drone flew in formation with other aircraft.

The Dassault nEUROn is an experimental Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) developed with international cooperation, led by the French company Dassault Aviation. Countries involved in this project include France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden & Switzerland. The design goal is to create a stealthy, autonomous UAV that can function in medium to high-threat combat zones. The operational UCAV is expected to be a larger design than the nEUROn demonstrator.

The UCAV is developed by an industrial team led by Dassault Aviation with the collaboration of Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Airbus Defence and Space, RUAG and HAI. nEUROn is expected to be larger and more advanced than other proven UAV systems like the MQ-1 Predator. It would be able to launch precision-guided munitions from an internal weapons bay, and perform an air-to-ground mission in a network centric warfare.

The air vehicle fuselage length and the wingspan are approximately 10m. The empty weight of the air vehicle is around 4,500kg and with a full payload the weight will be about 6,000kg. The air vehicle has tricycle-type landing gear for runway take-off and landing. The French maker states the nEUROn’s Adour engine (tuned from the SEPECAT Jaguar) will be replaced in the production version by a more powerful, specific, engine based on Snecma’s M88 from the Dassault Rafale.

nEUROn will have the capability to carry two laser guided 250kg (550lb) bombs in two weapon bays. The air vehicle is expected to have an endurance of several hours and high subsonic speed i.e. a maximum speed of Mach 0.7 to Mach 0.8. The unmanned nEUROn is controlled from ground-based stations and from control stations in combat aircraft such as the French Rafale or the Swedish Gripen.

The demonstrator made its first flight at Istres on December 1, 2012. The test schedule was completed in September 2015 with the 123rd flight. An additional series of tests was launched by the DGA in May 2016 to study the use of an unmanned combat air vehicle in a naval context.


BAE Taranis model, one of the largest design concepts

The British completed what was thought to be the third and last series of test flights from a site at Woomera, Australia, in the autumn of 2015. “Analyses from the third phase of flight trials is still going on. What we plan to do beyond that will be a subject for discussion once the analysis phase is completed,” said Martin Rowe-Willcocks, the head of future programs at BAE’s Military Air and Information business. An industry team led by BAE Systems completed two phases of trial flights at Woomera, Australia, between August 2013 and January 2014.

Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, was built by a BAE-led consortium in a £200 million (US $291 million) program primarily meant to test British unmanned air combat vehicle controls and low observable technology. Taranis is a British demonstrator programme for unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology. BAE describes Taranis’s role in this context as following: “This £124m four year programme is part of the UK Government’s Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle Experiment (SUAVE) and will result in a UCAV demonstrator with fully integrated autonomous systems and low observable features.”

The 9 meters wide by and 4 meters high Taranis demonstrator will have an MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) of about 8000 kilograms and be of comparable size to the BAE Hawk – making it one of the world’s largest UAVs. It will be stealthy, fast, and able to deploy a range of munitions over a number of targets, as well as being capable of defending itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft. The demonstrator will have two internal weapons bays. BAE, GE Aviation, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Selex are among the companies behind development of the 8-ton vehicle, which is similar in size to the Hawk trainer jet. 

US’s  Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles

Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System Demonstration (LCASD)

The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded target drone builder Kratos a contract to execute what it calls a Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System Demonstration (LCASD). This proof-of-concept initiative is centered on creating a (relatively) cheap unmanned combat aircraft that the USAF can afford to lose in combat, even opting to do so willingly by sending it on a one-way mission if need be. Alternatively, if the vehicle had the range to return to friendly territory, it could be repeatedly recovered and launched again on other missions, even from small bases without runways. The contract’s total value is $40.8 million, with Air Force contribution  is only up around $7 million,

Here is exactly what the AFRL wants out of this demonstration phase:

The LCASD system KUSD will provide a configurable design for multiple variants, anticipated to perform various missions that could require Nap-of-The-Earth (NOE) Flight, Cruising at High Altitudes, Defensive Counter Air (DCA) Maneuvers, Offensive Counter Air (OCA) Maneuvers, the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and the Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD). Additionally, the System will also incorporate performance capability including extreme agility for missile avoidance maneuvers to improve survivability.

The Kratos LCASD design will meet, or in certain cases significantly exceed, the following stated Air Force goals for the program:

  • UAS Acquisition Cost: $3 million or less for the first unit up to 99 units, and $2 million or less for 100-or-greater unit quantity purchases.
  • 1,500 nautical mile mission radius with a 500 lb. payload.
  • Capable of Mach 0.9 Dash.
  • Maximum G load limits, maneuver rates, and subsystem environmental suitability.
  • Internal weapons capability; sized to carry and deliver at least two GBU-39 small diameter bombs.
  • Runway Independent Take-off and Landing capability.
  • Emphasis on the use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) materials, sub-systems, manufacturing processes, and open mission system architecture concepts.
  • Tactical consideration of the vehicle shape, elimination of gaps and mismatches, and aero-structural inlet integration.


 US’s Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) programme

The Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) programme began being managed by DARPA, but was handed over to a joint US Navy and Air Force office in October 2005. The two principle systems being developed under the first phase of the programme, the Spiral 0 phase, are the Boeing X-45 and the Northrop Grumman X-47.


X-45 J-UCAV (Joint Unmanned Combat Air System)

Boeing has unveiled its Phantom Ray, a fighter-sized unmanned combat air vehicle which first flew in 2011. The aircraft has a 50-foot wingspan, can climb to 40,000 feet and reach speeds of Mach .85. The Boeing joint unmanned combat air system X-45 is an unmanned combat air vehicle being developed for strike missions such as Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD), electronic warfare and associated operations.

Built and wholly financed by Boeing as a future technology test bed and demonstrator, it is a stealthy, 50ft flying-wing design, which is said to be able to carry 4,500lbs of payload to a ceiling of 40,000ft and at speeds of up to 534kn.

In March 2004, the X-45A completed a ten-day schedule of test flights including dropping a 250lb inert Small Smart Bomb (SSB) at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. In August 2004, the first test of multi-vehicle operations took place. Two X-45A demonstrators were controlled by a single operator / pilot. X-45A flight tests were successfully concluded in August 2005.


US Navy’s X-47B

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for aircraft carrier-based operations. The X-47B is a tailless jet-powered blended-wing-body aircraft capable of semi-autonomous operation and aerial refueling.

With a gross takeoff weight of 44,000lbs, a payload of 4,500lbs and capable of flying at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet at high subsonic speeds for six hours, hybrid wing-bodied X-47B is the size of a strike fighter and has a range of some 2100nm without refuelling.

UCAVs also don’t need to worry about pilot fatigue as operators work in shifts and are easily substituted, meaning mission lengths can be extended to up to 50 hours. By comparison, fighter jets need to return to base, undergo maintenance and change pilots before they can take off again.

The aircraft is highly autonomous, can fly a pre-programmed mission under computer control and then returning to base at the mouse-click of its operator, who monitors its operation but does not actively directly pilot it.

The UCAV conducted its maiden flight in 2011 before completing ground tests and commencing test flights in 2013. In-flight refueling tests began at the start of 2015. In August 2014, the US Navy announced that it had integrated the X-47B into carrier operations alongside manned aircraft.

UCAVs can also carry a wide range of ammunition, including the MK-84, GBU-31, BLU-109, MK-83, MK-82, GBU-32, GBU-103, GBU-104, GBU-105, AGM-114, AGM-65E, CBU-99, GBU-12, MK-82, MK-46/50/54, and so forth, making them extremely versatile and capable of carrying out missions over both sea and land as well as engaging in aerial combat. Importantly, the X-47B would allow US aircraft carriers to maintain a distance of more than 500 nautical miles off the coast of mainland China in an assault

Northrop Grumman intends to develop the prototype X-47B into a battlefield-ready aircraft, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system, which will enter service in the 2020s



According to the United States Defense Department’s latest report on China’s military build-up, China is poised to become the world leader in unmanned military aircraft with up to 42,000 pilotless aircraft aloft by 2023. These will include fixed wing and rotary aircraft to conduct surveillance, attack and even air combat missions.

AVIC 601-S is a series of Chinese low-observable flying wing UAVs jointly developed by Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute (SYADI) of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Shenyang Aerospace University

In 2013 China revealed that it was developing four new types of UAVs including the Yilong and Lijian which look very similar to US built aircraft such as the General Atomics Reaper and the Northrop Grumman X-47B carrier based Unmanned Air Combat Vehicle (UCAV).

The Lijian, also known as “sharp sword”, is a stealthy flying wing design that first flew in November 2013 and is very similar to the X-47B that has been operated from a US aircraft carrier. The Sharp Sword is jet-powered and has a wingspan of 14 meters. It’s not yet known the precise mission Sharp Sword is assigned, but possible missions would including reconnaissance and eventually combat missions.


 China  developed part Missile and Part UCAV

Jane’s sources have shed new light on a hitherto unseen anti-ship weapon/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-like system – centred around a wing-in-ground-effect optimised airframe – that was initially circulated on Chinese internet discussion forums around May 2017 in a Mandarin language brochure with a redacted product designation.

Developed by defence prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s (CASC’s) China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) subsidiary, the system has been given the product designation of CH-T1, although it is understood that the company prefers to identify it as the Ground Effect UAV (GEUAV) demonstrator.

The forward segment of the 5.8 m long GEUAV demonstrator is shaped like a conventional missile, with a cylindrical fuselage capped by an ogival nosecone where the radar seeker is located. Towards the rear is an unconventionally designed main body featuring two thick, long chord but short-span stubby wing structures running along the sides of its belly that combine to form a continuous wing-like undersurface. Two small outer wings can be found at the front of the main stub wings, along with upwards cranked V-tailfins at the rear that have an overall span of 3.8 m.

The air vehicle has a specified maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 3,000 kg – although the prototype weighed significantly less during trials as it only carried partial payloads and fuel loads – and achieves take-off via rocket assisted catapult launch. It can be powered by either a turbojet or turbofan engine, which enables it to travel at a maximum speed of Mach 0.65 (802 km/h) while cruising at terrain hugging altitudes of 1–6 m. The engine draws its air from an intake located on top of its main body to avoid ingesting sea spray during low level flight overwater.

Russia’s MIG Skat Stealth UCAV Prototype

Russian military aircraft maker MiG said in May 20115, it was ready to go ahead with a research and development project for an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) based on its Skat prototype, after signing a deal with the Trade and Industry Ministry earlier that month.

SKAT is a low-observable, subsonic craft meant to carry weapons in two ventral weapons bays large enough for missiles such as the Kh-31, powered by a single Klimov RD-5000B turbofan engine, a variant of the RD-93. It has an 11.5 meter (37.7 ft) wingspan, and is 10.25 meters (33.6 ft) long.

The single-engine subsonic design has a maximum thrust of 49,4 kN. So that the Skat is able to reach a top speed of 800 km/h with a maximum take-off weight of 10 tons, at altitude. The Skat is expected to have a service ceiling of 12,000 m and a range of 4000 km.

The Skat will be able to carry 2 tons of armament in two internal weapon bays. It should be equipped with Air-to-Surface missiles, Glide bombs, Cruise missiles and anti-radiation missiles. Possible roles include the suppression and attack of enemy air defenses.

United Aircraft Corporation’s president Mikhail Pogosyan revealed plans to produce a prototype of a 20-tonne UCAV by 2018. Pogosyan also revealed that this prototype will be based on the Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter.


India’s AURA unmanned combat air vehicle being developed by DRDO

AURA is an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The Main role of AURA is to deploy as Unmanned Stealth Bomber. The AURO is UCAV with long range and have properties of ‘Stealth’ which makes it almost undetectable on defence radars.

The UCAV’s design is similar to the American Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit bomber. IT is capable of flying at the altitude of 30,000 feet and has a range of 300+ km.  The whole of the AURA is made by composite materials and weigh less than 15 tonnes. The DRDO is going to use a Kaveri engine to power this unmanned vehicle.

The AURA is mainly deploy for the various military missions which includes Deep penetration strike, Suppression of enemy air defences, strategic reconnaissance and electronic warfare.

Unlike other UCAVs which only armed with missiles, The AURA can be capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions. It will act as the ultimate ‘force multiplier’ and ‘game changer’ in any battle scenario of the future.

The Project cost is estimated to $1.5 billion ( Rs 8,250 crore).


Israel’s Harop

The IAI Harop (or IAI Harpy 2) is a disposable attack unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) developed by the MBT division of Israel Aerospace Industries which is part UAV and part missile. Rather than holding a separate high-explosive warhead, the drone itself is the main munition. This SEAD-optimised UCAV is designed to loiter the battlefield, hunt critical targets and attack targets by self-destructing into them.

Harop is 8 feet, 2 inches long with a wingspan of 9 feet, 10 inches. The range is said to be in the 1000 km range or upto 1000 km range and upto six hours of flight time. The aircraft is lauched from a prepared container and extends its outboard wing sections upon launch.

The Harop features two guidance modes: it can either home in on radio emissions by itself with its anti-radar homing system, or the operator can select static or moving targets detected by the aircraft’s electro-optical sensor. This latter mode allows the Harop to attack radars that are presently shut down and therefore not providing emissions for the aircraft to automatically home in on. Harop has been exported to a handful of Asian countries.

The head of Israel Aerospace Industries’ military aircraft division believes its future profits reside in the market for unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV). Future combat UAVs should be fast and carry a lot of weapons, and they may even be like flying bomb trucks that operate alongside manned aircraft. “This is one of the configurations you’re looking at,” Shahar says. “Not every UCAV will be an F-35 without the pilot.”


References and Resources also include:


USAF’s ISR vision of Full-Spectrum Awareness for Distributed Targeting, Space Control and Cyber Warfare

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities enable the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to be aware of developments related to adversaries worldwide and to conduct a wide variety of critical missions, both in peacetime and in conflict. It involves a networked system of systems operating in space, cyberspace, air, land, and maritime domains. These systems include planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and production, and dissemination (PCPAD) capabilities linked together by communications architecture.

US Air force has released “AF ISR 2023: Delivering Decision Advantage,” that lays out a strategic vision of “Full-Spectrum Awareness” and “World-Class Expertise” which combine to the ultimate vision of “Delivering Decision Advantage.” AF ISR Vision 2023’ demand for an “…ISR enterprise that seamlessly ingests data from an even wider expanse of sources, swiftly conducts multi- and all-source analysis, and rapidly delivers decision advantage to war fighters and national decision makers.”

ISR is one of the Air Force’s five enduring core missions along with air and space superiority, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control. AF ISR is integral to Global Vigilance for the nation and is foundational to Global Reach and Global Power.

“We will not be able to maintain the size and composition of the current ISR force, yet we must prepare for operations which will range from humanitarian assistance to major contingency operations in highly contested environments. This strategic vision enables us to achieve national goals while tailoring our ISR force to best meet future challenges.”

Intelligence gathering in future will also involve monitoring and mining social media in real time via an automated artificial intelligence is another way the Air Force and other military branches can obtain information, said the head of the service. The Air Force on some level does monitor social media already. The service’s only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

But social media is just one aspect, said Col. Robert Bloodworth, chief of combat operations. It is also the technology of “refining the analysis” through AI to reach the operator, pilot or airman in a decisive and streamlined way is what the Air Force desperately needs to conduct missions in the future. “Before you get to artificial intelligence, you have to get to automation, and what does that mean? It means we’re really developing algorithms, so we then have to build trust in the algorithms,” said Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, the service’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on the Air Staff  during an interview.

AF ISR 22023

The challenge for AF ISR is to maintain the impressive tactical competencies developed and sustained over the past 12 years, while rebuilding the capability and capacity to provide the air component commander and subordinate forces with the all-source intelligence required to conduct full-spectrum cross-domain operations in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments around the globe.

Our ability to provide dominant ISR depends on well-trained, well-led professional Airmen who have strong analytical skills along with a high state of readiness, agility, and responsiveness. These characteristics, along with continued innovation and integration of technological advancements, will combine to make our Airmen experts in their trade.

Additionally, we will not rely solely on our own capabilities; it is imperative that we fully leverage the vast array of national capabilities along with those of the Total Force, our sister Services, the Intelligence Community (IC), and our international partners.


World-Class Expertise

Providing world-class expertise as an integral part of air component and joint operations requires ISR Airmen who are masters of threat characterization, analysis, collection, targeting, and operations-intelligence integration. Empowered to innovate, ISR Airmen will lead the way in the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that will compress OODA loops, produce actionable intelligence, and provide the intelligence needed to complete the kinetic or nonkinetic targeting equation.


Delivering Decision Advantage

The fundamental job of AF ISR Airmen is to analyze, inform, and provide commanders at every level with the knowledge they need to prevent surprise, make decisions, command forces, and employ weapons. Maintaining decision advantage empowers leaders to protect friendly forces and hold targets at risk across the depth and breadth of the battlespace—on the ground, at sea, in the air, in space, and in cyberspace. It also enables commanders to apply deliberate, discriminate, and deadly kinetic and non-kinetic combat power. To deliver decision advantage, we will seamlessly present, integrate, command and control (C2), and operate ISR forces to provide Airmen, joint force commanders, and national decision makers with utmost confidence in the choices they make.


Distributed Targeting

Over the past two decades, our deliberate targeting competence has stagnated. To ensure AF readiness across the full range of military operations, we will refocus on satisfying the air component commander’s air, space, and cyberspace deliberate targeting requirements by: adopting a distributed targeting concept of operations and TTPs; integrating and automating targeting capabilities across the enterprise; integrating kinetic and non-kinetic targeting TTPs; and establishing more comprehensive targeting training. Targeting is a critical enabler of Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power; we will ensure that AF ISR is ready to provide this highly perishable skill when required.


Multi- and All-source intelligence

In addition to the tactical intelligence mission, the AF ISR force of 2023 must also conduct strategic intelligence collection in peacetime—Phase 0—and provide world-class, multi- and all-source intelligence in highly contested, communications-degraded environments across all domains.

Since 9/11, there has been an explosion in space and cyberspace capabilities, with corresponding prominence on the national stage. Additionally, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in renewed, sustained emphasis on human-derived intelligence (HUMINT and open sources) by all of the Services. To execute the AF ISR mission, we must be better collectors, enablers, and integrators of information derived from space, cyberspace, human, and open sources


Cyber Warfare

Cyberspace, a relatively new and rapidly evolving operational domain for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the military services, is defined as “a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers.”

ISR sensors can be augmented by the ability of cyber information to provide geolocation information and movement information on adversarial and friendly systems. This capability can allow sparse assets to be deployed elsewhere or to obtain information more effectively, allowing rapid, minimal observations.

There is a multidimensional relationship between the ISR and cyber missions and capabilities. There are three missions from a cyberspace perspective: support, defense, and force application. ISR is a crosscutting capability that can be applied holistically with other core functions to enable cyberspace missions. Conversely, Cyberspace Superiority supports and is supported by all of the other Air Force core functions. In the case of the Global Integrated ISR (GIISR) core function, these relationships could be characterized as “Cyber for ISR” and “ISR from Cyber.”

The “Cyber for ISR” relationship is illustrated by the mission assurance requirement for the cyber domain in support of an ISR mission. Cyberspace mission assurance ensures the availability and defense of a secured network to support a military operation.

Conversely, the “ISR from Cyber” relationship is illustrated by considering how ISR can be executed during cyberspace operations, particularly during cyberspace force application (exploitation). This can be characterized as situational awareness during and in support of cyberspace operations.

By 2023, AF ISR and cyber forces will be an integral partner to the joint team that operates in cyberspace to meet air component commander, joint force commander, and national needs. We will also forge service-specific cyber capabilities that provide specialized applications across the domains.

Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) will continue to be a crucial enabler for Offensive Cyber Operations (OCO), Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO), and Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN) operations, but ISR will also be a prominent and critical product of those operations, meeting Air Force, joint, and national decision maker requirements.


Space Control and Protection

AF ISR relies heavily on space-based assets for collection and global airborne ISR operations; ISR collected from space greatly enhances our ability to characterize the battlespace through all domains and is critical to success across the full spectrum of operations.

In the early stages of conflict in a contested, degraded environment, ISR from space may represent our most viable collection capabilities. But the space domain is increasingly congested and contested. Therefore, to maintain this capability, we need to identify non-kinetic and kinetic threats to space assets and architecture; identify adversary intent and capabilities to use space; and conduct target analysis that enables offensive and defensive counterspace operations.

Protecting space assets is critical to AF ISR operations and the nation’s full spectrum joint operations. Purposefully developing ISR Airmen who understand ISR for and from space is the initial step we will take to ensure this critical capability. To solidify the value of space ISR, we will also broaden and improve our ability to integrate space-based ISR capabilities across the AF ISR Enterprise.


USAF ISR enabled by data science

The  characteristics of the intelligence environment since 2000 suggest fundamental change is occurring: an ever-larger volume of data; widening variety (classic intelligence sources, new sensors and types of data, and open sources); increasing velocity (more data and information in motion, every day); and more complex veracity (data duplication, identity, authenticity, and the resolution of each).

The ability of Air Force ISR analysts or “Analyst Airmen,” to deliver in this new era of intelligence analysis will be predicated in great part on a strategy to shape AF ISR Big Data into a manageable form to meet tactical, operational, and strategic mission needs.

The IC Cloud is a main feature of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) “IC IT Enterprise” (IC-ITE) program which represents a mass migration of IC data to a common ecosystem. Described by the ODNI, “…IC-ITE moves the IC from an agency-centric IT architecture to a common platform where the Community easily and securely shares information, techAs the AF ISR community integrates into ICITE,

Joint Information Environment (JIE), Defense Intelligence Information Environment (DI2E), and simultaneously maintains its own large enterprises that collect, exploit, and disseminate data, the Data Science discipline and the need for imbedded talent will become more important. Technological advances in live data streaming and correlation allow for realtime decision making on a scale never before experienced in AF ISR. We now have the ability to ingest disparate data sets, put relevant conditions and rules in place, and derive insights and prescriptive intelligence in an unprecedented fashion.

By managing and providing the Community’s IT infrastructure and services as a single enterprise, the IC will not only be more efficient, but will also establish a powerful platform to deliver more innovative and secure technology to desktops at all levels across the intelligence enterprise.”This transformation presents both challenges and opportunities for AF ISR in adopting a Data Science strategy and capitalizing on the wealth of information available from the IC Cloud.



References and Resources also include:

Capability Planning and Analysis to Optimize Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Investment, National Academy of Sciences.

US planning advanced submarine sensing and hunting technologies for Russian ultra quiet submarines

Russia is seeking to further bolster its sub-surface capabilities, with new generations of conventional and nuclear propulsion submarines, which promise to be significantly more difficult to detect and track for western naval forces. This includes the Yasen, Lada, Borei and Kalina classes of submarines.

Submarines are one of deadliest weapons which are hardest to detect, literally a pile of submerged nuclear weapons ready to unleash widespread destruction with single command. In case of a nuclear war the stealthy submarines have a greater chance of surviving the first strike. Once on high alert the boats can leave their bases stay undetected for months and can carry and fire missiles that could sink even the sturdiest ship and flatten entire cities.

DARPA considers ultra-quiet as well as highly lethal submarines as an asymmetric threat and in response has launched the Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting (DASH) program that intends to reverse the asymmetric advantage of this threat through the development of advanced standoff sensing from unmanned systems.

DARPA  has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for its Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program. The MOCCA program’s goal is to enable submarines to detect other submerged vessels at greater distances, while minimizing the risk of counter-detection.

“With the resurgence of near-peer competitors and an increasing number of submarines, MOCCA technology will provide Navy submariners with a vital asymmetrical advantage against a rapidly proliferating undersea threat.” Geoff Edelson, director of Maritime Systems and Technology at BAE Systems, said in a written statement.

DARPA is also developing the ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV),  a 40-meter long state of art unmanned vessel built specifically to track quiet diesel-electric submarines, at a fraction of their size and cost. DARPA believes using large numbers of inexpensive unmanned ACTUVs are a way to counter submarines as an undersea component of anti-access warfare.

DARPA program manager Ellison Urban, quoted by Defense One, explains the rationale behind the U.S. Navy’s push for robot ships: Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost. It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine, and just ping on it.



Russian Super stealth submarine threat and US Response

Russia has been devloping super quiet submarines like new lada-class diesel electric submarines. “The stealth capabilities of Russia’s new Lada-class diesel-electric submarines far exceed those of their predecessors, Admiraty Shipyard’s CEO Alexander Buzakov told the Russian press.

“According to Buzakov, the new vessels are even stealthier than Russian Kilo-class submarines, thought to be one of the quietest diesel-electric submarine classes in the world and dubbed “black holes” for their ability to “disappear” from sonars. “The new submarines are able to maintain such a low profile thanks to a clever implementation of a next-generation anti-reflective acoustic coating and a new improved hydro-acoustic system, Buzakov said

Russia’s super-quiet “Improved Kilo” class or Varshavyanka class submarines also possesses an extended combat range, and its relatively small size helps it maneuver in shallow waters.

for more information on Russian Submarines:


“The emerging security environment lays bare the urgent need to regenerate maritime patrol capabilities in Europe and more broadly enhance not only antisubmarine warfare but also maritime domain awareness across the maritime domains in and around Europe,” said Magnus Nordenman, Director for the Transatlantic Security Initiative. “Airborne systems to provide MDA, and maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) in particular, stand out among the most important and urgent of these maritime requirements. Maritime patrol aircraft fulfill a number of roles, from high-end Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) to maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), and search and rescue at sea.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called for “a continuous arc of highly capable maritime patrol aircraft” to meet the challenge of increasingly sophisticated and active Russian submarines at the boundary of the North Atlantic. It’s an important call to replace a depleted capability — and it will require a special kind of cooperation to make happen.


US Navy seeking advanced sub-hunting technology

The U.S. Navy wants to upgrade its ability to detect Russian submarines in response to assertive naval moves by President Vladimir Putin.

The Navy is seeking to deploy a sophisticated surveillance device made by Lockheed Martin Corp. in the Atlantic Ocean. The device, towed by a ship, already is in use in the Pacific. As soon as mid-2016, the service also wants to send to the Atlantic a prototype networked “undersea sensor system” that “addresses emergent real-world threats,” according to a Defense Department budget document.

The prototype sensor network will be best used “in a choke point like Gibraltar” or a stretch of the North Atlantic from Greenland and Iceland to Britain, where Soviet submarines transited during the Cold War, Bryan Clark, a naval analyst for the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in an email.

The Navy proposals are evidence that “the U.S. military views Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic as both an immediate risk and an emerging long-term threat,” said Tom Spahn, a Navy reservist who writes on undersea warfare issues. The projects may be part of a strategy “to replace or upgrade our aging” undersea sensor system of hydrophones — underwater microphones — “made famous during the Cold War, which again points to Russia as the target,” Spahn said

 DARPA’s Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting (DASH)

DARPA’s program Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting, or DASH, effort is to find an adversary’s quiet submarine using advanced standoff sensing from unmanned underwater systems.

Through a scalable number of collaborative sensor platforms that use multiple sensing modalities, the program will demonstrate system solutions to detect and localize submarines over large areas in both shallow and deep water environments.

Two complementary prototype systems — part of DARPA’s Phase 2 development effort in the Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting program — have demonstrated functional sonar, communications and mobility at deep depths in recent tests, it said.

DARPA’s Bistatic Sonar System under Mobile Off board Command and Control and Approach (MOCCA) program.

Most sonar systems are monostatic, in that the transmitter and receiver are in the same place. But DARPA wants a Bistatic sonar describes wherein the transmitter and receiver(s) are separated by a distance large enough to be comparable to the distance to the target. Bistatic sonar system for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) would be able to provide long range of active sonar without compromising the stealth of U.S. attack submarines.

Whereas surface ships conducting anti-submarine warfare can use a combination of active and passive sensors, submarines use passive detection systems to listen to their surroundings without putting out any pings, to maintain their own stealth. According to a Broad Agency Announcement released last year at the start of DARPA’s Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program, MOCCA would leverage the benefits of active sonar systems while protecting the submarine’s location, since the pings would be coming from a UUV at some unknown distance from the submarine.

Under MOCCA program, an attack submarine shall launch a small UUV  21 inches in diameter or smaller, and may operate in littoral waters, the bottom of the ocean and other challenging environments.

The UUV will carry a small but powerful sound projector, which shall transmit sound pings of high volume The sound reflected by enemy submarines shall be received by attack submarine and be used to detect and track enemy submarines at long ranges.

The submarine will need the ability to coordinate the operational functions of the supporting UUV. Thus, the program must also demonstrate the ability to achieve reliable clandestine communications between the host submarine and supporting UUV without sacrificing submarine stealth.

DARPA researchers want an active sonar with an active sonar projector small enough for UUV operations; and bistatic active sonar processing. This will involve developing high-output transducer materials, and a sonar projector that is as energy-efficient as possible.

Researchers want the ability to focus the projected acoustic signal in a direction of interest. The goal is to produce practical and flexible designs for the projector that can scale for several different UUVs and deployment options.

The program is looking for companies to develop compact power-efficient sonar projector bistatic sonar processing advancements in reverberation and clutter rejection as well as precision localization capability and secure undersea communications technology.


DARPA  has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for its  MOCCA program

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for its Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program. “Advances in maritime technology are critical to the Department of Defense and an area where the U.S. military can continue to strengthen its advantage,” Geoff Edelson, director of Maritime Systems and Technology at BAE Systems, said in a written statement.

To meet the MOCCA program’s ambitious Phase 1 goals, BAE Systems’ researchers will design efficient sonar capabilities to maximize detection range and improve target identification and tracking, BAE developers say.

“An ideal link would have a low probability of intercept and of exploitation and provide high link reliability,” DARPA states.


Technical Challenges

The MOCCA program has two key technical challenges:

1) Development of an active sonar system, which includes a small form factor active sonar projector suitable for UUV operations and bi-static active sonar processing

A small UUV is disadvantaged as a host for an active sonar projector. The volume available for the projector is highly constrained which makes high-output transducer materials a necessity. At the same time, the UUV is energy-limited, so the projector must be as energy efficient as possible.

Innovative sonar transducer concepts and designs should consider high-drive materials, efficient power-amplifiers, and compact array projector configurations that will optimize sound output in a UUV volume-and-energy constrained package.

Relatively long-range ensonification is required, so the ability to focus the projected acoustic signal in a direction of interest is needed to provide additional effective source level at the cost of a requirement to scan the sonar to produce the needed coverage. The goal is to produce practical and flexible designs for the projector that can be scaled for multiple vehicles and deployment options.

The acoustic projector should be dynamically steerable to focus acoustic output in directions of interest. This feature will maximize detection performance and minimize the counter-detection risk to the operating host submarine. MOCCA sonar projector frequency bands must be compatible with current US Navy submarine sensors.

Bi-static sonar processing advancements are needed in the area of reverberation and clutter rejection as well as precision localization capability. The system will be operated in bottom limited acoustic environments. Sound that is projected will be scattered, producing reverberation and signal loss. Scattered sound may inadvertently illuminate the host submarine and possibly compromise stealth. For this reason, detailed and accurate predictions of the acoustic environment are important to manage the sonar and potential exposures.


2) Design and implementation of a secure and reliable communications link to provide positive control of a UUV operating at a significant distance from its host submarine

The communications link between the host submarine and the UUV will be used to control the UUV and its sonar payload, and to communicate information generated on the UUV back to the host platform. The MOCCA system will be used during an engagement, so proper control of the UUV is critical. Link throughput, delay, and reliability trades should consider the need for reliable operation during combat.

The MOCCA communication system designs may include acoustic, optical, and relayed Radio Frequency (RF) signaling modalities that are compatible with existing submarine systems and tactical operations. The fundamental attributes of this link are: (1) Significant communications range (2) Secure and reliable UUV control (3) Ability to preserve the host submarine stealth

MOCCA communications will be evaluated for Low Probability of Intercept and Low Probability of Exploitation (LPI/LPE) characteristics on a continuing basis. The MOCCA communications link cannot degrade submarine stealth.


System Considerations

MOCCA technologies must be compatible with US Navy submarines and submarine-delivered UUVs for future development and demonstration efforts. The MOCCA program will not develop a UUV, but MOCCA sonar and communications payloads should be designed for integration into submarine-launched UUVs with a maximum diameter of 21 inches.

MOCCA sonar and communications data transmission, collection, and processing cannot impact existing submarine operations – the MOCCA submarine processor and display will be adjunct equipment approved for on-board submarine operation and interface with submarine systems. Digital sonar signal data will be available for MOCCA sonar processing at the output of submarine sensor signal conditioning and analog-to-digital conversion processing.

MOCCA communications will be evaluated for Low Probability of Intercept and Low Probability of Exploitation (LPI/LPE) characteristics on a continuing basis. The MOCCA communications link cannot degrade submarine stealth.


Transformational Reliable Acoustic Path System (TRAPS) Passive Sonar Node

The first prototype is the Transformational Reliable Acoustic Path System (TRAPS) developed by a team led by Science Applications International Corp. It is an expendable, low-size, weight and power (SWaP) fixed passive sonar node for large-area coverage and operates from the deep seafloor.

The significant field of view, along with the advantage of low-noise phenomena at extreme depths will permit a scalable number of collaborative sensor platforms to detect and track submarines over large areas. These nodes will communicate to a stationary surface node via wireless acoustic modems, with further secure RF reach back to the performer’s facilities via satellite.

Under Phase 3 of the contract, SAIC will expand the number of prototype nodes to demonstrate a scalable distributed system prototype system to detect quiet submarines.


SHARC unmanned surface vessel to Monitor ASW Sensors and transmit data to satellites

An unmanned ocean glider developed by Liquid Robotics is destined to be the uplink for antisubmarine warfare acoustic sensors planted on the bottom of the deep ocean.

Liquid Robotics’ SHARC (Sensor Hosted in Autonomous Remote Craft) will be part of a battery-operated ASW array of sensors designed to passively monitor submarine movements. SHARC is an unmanned surface vessel that looks like a large raft. It is equipped with solar cells for electrical power for its mission systems and it equipped with a radio for uplink and downlink. A set of wings suspended from the floating raft into the deep provide the propulsion for the SHARC, using the ocean’s wave energy. The SHARC’s navigation is programmed through waypoints. The SHARC also can tow an acoustic array for submarine detection and tracking.

Gary Gysin, president and chief executive officer of Liquid Robotics, told Seapower that the SHARC is part of the rapidly deployable TRAPS system that can be planted in a body of water to create an acoustic surveillance barrier at locations such as a choke point. A SHARC can monitor several bottom acoustic sensors called nodes. As a submarine makes a transit near one of the nodes, the node will record its acoustic signature. The SHARC can interrogate the nodes, collect the recording and uplink the data vie Iridium satellite to an aircraft, ship or ground station.

SHARC is equipped with an Automatic Identification System receiver to enable it to identify shipping and avoid traffic.


Submarine Hold at RisK (SHARK) autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV)

DARPA, will be testing its latest “submarine drone,” that is, a prototype of SHARK (Submarine Hold at RisK). SHARK is  a loitering autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) to detect and track submarines in the deepest regions of the ocean. It will provide a mobile active sonar platform to track submarines after initial detections are made.

The SHARK, is designed to exploit long-range acoustic propagation in the deep ocean, an industry spokesperson told IHS Jane’s at the annual DARPA Day at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on 11 May. SHARK uses long-range active sonar mounted on the front and a receiver array mounted along the side. The UUV can change the steering angle of the sonar and the position of the receiving array so that the array is broadside of the target, he noted.

The UUV is approximately 3,300 lb (1,496.8 kg) dry weight. The 23 ft (7 m) long UUV is designed to dwell at depths of up to 6,000 m until called into action. SHARK is powered by a lithium polymer battery that can provide about 24 hours of endurance, including sonar operations. The vehicle has other features for deep-water operations, he added. “The housing uses aluminum ceramic instead of titanium or aluminum [to achieve the required lower weight] that is much more appropriate for a UUV.

SHARK uses a variable-buoyancy system to enable it to loiter and help with endurance so that the system is not struggling to maintain buoyancy. For safety purposes the UUV has a drop weight that it releases to enable it to quickly rise to the surface.

SHARK was developed by a team led by Applied Physical Systems and the UUV conducted successful deep dive testing in February 2013. DARPA said the prototypes are scheduled to demonstrate their core sonar functionality together and that subsequent development efforts will follow, including using multiple sonar nodes with TRAP and integrating the SHARK with its sonar.

The program will achieve breakthrough technology for longrange detection and classification, communications, energy management, sensor and platform integration, and robust semiautonomous processing and control for distributed sensing platforms.

For the vast shallow continental shelf areas, the program similarly adopts distributed mobile sensors, but instead leverages insights in non-acoustic sensing from above. Once a wide-area sensor provides an initial indication of a possible target, the forward deployed Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) will then rapidly “sprint” to the area and use its own sensors to assess the contact.

Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) ( Unmanned Surface Vessel )

The U.S. Navy is preparing to take full control of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and procure a second craft. The ACTUV enemy submarine hunter is expected to be about 130 feet long.  Its extremely slender hull form has a composite fiberglass shell and a foam core to provide structural resilience in conditions up to Sea State 7.


The craft is an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) designed to operate and patrol autonomously for 60-90 days straight, being able to track quiet diesel-electric submarines  and avoid surface ships by itself. The ACTUV is designed to out-endure any diesel-electric submarine, even those equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) at a fraction of their size and cost. Once the enemy sub is spotted it could guide other U.S. naval assets to the vessel’s location to destroy it.


In addition to hunting enemy subs, ACTUV will be capable of a wide range of missions, such as reconnaissance and counter-mine deployments. It could also be useful to resupply troops.


A suite of sensors “capable of tracking quiet, modern diesel electric submarines” will be implemented, including very high frequency sonar that will produce an “acoustic image” of the target to identify and classify the specific submarine. ACTUV will be smart, it will not just identify other vessels, but also predict how they will behave.


The vessel was commissioned in April 2016, and in a couple weeks will be sent to San Diego, where DARPA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will begin a two-year-long trial period to test the concept and various sensors that can be installed on the 145-ton full load displacement vessel. DARPA will conduct the initial trials and turn the vessel over to ONR later this year. The test phase will run through September 2018.


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South Korea deploying swarm drones and killer sentry robots for surveillance and weapon attacks

Kim  has finally succeeded in  developing  an ICBM operational capability through which it can  deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere in the United States, according to analysis based on Images released by North Korea. North Korea released dozens of photos and a video after 29 Nov launch of the new Hwasong-15 missile, and leader Kim Jong Un declared the country had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force”. Kim Jong Un’s regime is believed to have between 25 and 60 nuclear weapons.

United States and South Korea have decided to counter North Korean missile capabilities with an advanced system on the Korean peninsula. This year, South Korea installed a US operated Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence antimissile battery that can shoot down short and medium-range missiles. But, the battery only has a short range and cannot cover the whole of the country.

South Korea also requires surveillance technologies  to keep watch  on the North , according to a  senior South Korean official the South lacks a military satellite, however, the US and Japanese satellites share images with South Korean officials in real time.

South Korea is also planning to deploy drones  and drone swarms for surveillance and  weapon attacks. South Korea’s military is planning to set up a weaponized drone combat unit to bolster its ability to defend against North Korea, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reports.

“The Army plans to set up a special organization to lead the development of dronebots, establish a standard platform and expand the dronebot program by function,” a South Korean army official told Yonhap. “To begin with, we will launch a dronebot combat unit next year and use it as a ‘game changer’ in warfare.” Dronebot is a combination of the words “drone” and “robot.” The drone unit, set to be launched in 2018, will be used for surveillance and will also be ready to mobilize to launch attacks.

ROK has also deployed killer robots  on the DMZ  to reduce casualties across the border as well allow the ROK to match with massive military force of North Korea in case of flare up.The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. It is 250 kilometers (160 miles) long and approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide, is one of the most heavily militarized border in the world, patrolled all along its length.

South Korea’s automatic killer sentry robots  guard Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

South Korea has deployed the automatic sentry guns, Samsung SGR-A1 and the Super Aegis 2 in the DMZ. Super Aegis 2 an automated, turret-based weapon platform capable of locking onto a human target three kilometers away. The Samsung SGR-A1 is $200,000, Sentry Guard Robot has IR and visible light cameras and motion sensors to detect and track multiple targets from over two miles (3.2 km). It can give warning and provide suppressive fire against intruders, through a 5.56 mm robotic machine gun under the control of a human operator from a remote location.

Super Aegis 2, manufactured by DoDaam of South, Korea, supports a variety of weapons, from a standard machine-gun to a surface-to-air missile. It uses sophisticated thermal imaging software and camera systems to lock onto a human-sized target even in the dead of night. The system requires no human presence., It’s operated remotely from a distant control room.

The SGR-A1 robot is developed jointly by the Korea University and Samsung Techwin Co. It has a CCD and an infra-red camera, allowing it to detect and track targets at ranges of up to 4Km during the day and 2Km during nighttime. The system uses pattern recognition software to distinguish humans from animals or other objects. The robot can verbally command an enemy target to surrender, recognize the surrendering gesture of the soldier’s arms held high and then decide not to fire. If the intruder is unable to provide the necessary access code when at a distance of ten meters, the Samsung SGR-A1 can either sound an alarm, fire rubber bullets or make use of its Daewoo K3 5.56mm machine gun.

There are also moral and ethical issues with these killer robots, they pose a great threat to human rights, and international community need to evolve sufficient controls to govern their use.


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US, Russia and China in race to develop autonomous and intelligent guided missiles to strike targets in anti-access, area-denial environment

The new buzzword in militaries across the world today is ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) — the ability for combat platforms to self-control, self-regulate and self-actuate, using inherent computing and decision-making capabilities. AI is has also enabling autonomous military missiles that can identify and strike hostile targets without human decision. The U.S., Russia and China, the world’s leading military powers are all applying artificial intelligence to missiles, drones and other deadly devices.

Lockheed Martin has successfully carried out a controlled flight test of the US Navy’s long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) surface-launch variant. With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets.  According to the Pentagon, this means that though targets are chosen by human soldiers, the missile uses artificial intelligence technology to avoid defenses and make final targeting decisions.

In August this year, a Chinese daily reported that China’s aerospace industry was developing tactical missiles with inbuilt intelligence that would help seek out targets in combat. The new Chinese weapon typifies a strategy known as “remote warfare,” said John Arquilla, a military strategist at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. The idea is to build large fleets of small ships that deploy missiles, to attack an enemy with larger ships, like aircraft carriers. “They are making their machines more creative,” he said. “A little bit of automation gives the machines a tremendous boost.”

China has overtaken the United States to become the world leader in deep learning research, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) inspired by the human brain, according to White House reports that aim to help prepare the US for the growing role of artificial intelligence in society.

Now Russia has claimed to be developing new missiles and drones that will use artificial intelligence to think for itself, according to weapons manufacturers and defense officials, in a bid to match military might against the United States and China.

LRASM highly autonomous missile

The LRASM is a long-range precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile designed to meet the needs of U.S. Navy and Air Force warfighters in anti-access/area-denial threat environments. The LRASM boasts a range of well over 200 nautical miles, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and the ability to strike at nearly the speed of sound.

What really makes LRASM stand out is that all of this is completely autonomous. Human beings tell the missile where the enemy fleet is, which ship to strike, and provide it with a continuous stream of data—the missile takes care of everything else. Using artificial intelligence, the missile takes data and makes decisions all on its own. Using AI and datalinks, multiple LRASMs can launch a coordinated attack on an enemy fleet, writes Kyle.

LRASM is first guided by the ship that launched it, then by satellite. The missile is jam-resistant and can carry on even if it loses contact with the Global Positioning System. As part of the targeting system, the missile can be set to fly to a series of waypoints, flying around static threats, land features, and commercial shipping. LRASM can detect threats between waypoints and navigate around them. If it decides it would be entering the engagement range of an enemy ship not on the target list, LRASM will fly around the ship, even skipping waypoints that might lie within enemy range and going on to the next one.

After locating the enemy fleet, it dives to sea-skimming altitude to avoid close-in defenses. LRASM then sizes up the enemy fleet, locates its target, and calculates the desired “mean point of impact”—the exact spot the missile should aim for, taking into account the accuracy of the missile—to ensure the missile does not miss. In most instances that is the exact center of the ship, with the angle of the ship in relation to the missile taken into consideration, reported Kyle Mizokami in PM.


China’s next-gen cruise missiles shall have high-level of artificial intelligence

China is looking to create a new generation of cruise missiles, which will have a high level of artificial intelligence, will be multifunctional and reconfigurable based on modular design according to a senior designer from China’s Aerospace and Industry Corp. The Chinese military is looking to adapt its technology with the belief that future combat missions will require weapons to be both cost-efficient and flexible.

“We plan to adopt a ‘plug and play’ approach in the development of new cruise missiles, which will enable our military commanders to tailor-make missiles in accordance with combat conditions and their specific requirements,” Wang Changqing of the China Aerospace and Industry Corp told China Daily newspaper. Meanwhile Wang Ya’nan, the editor in chief of the Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said that missiles will be multi-functional. He mentioned that their payload can be changed, while they will also be suitable for striking targets both on land and at sea.

“Moreover, our future cruise missiles will have a very high level of artificial intelligence and automation,” he told China Daily. “They will allow commanders to control them in a real-time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or even to add more tasks to in-flight missiles.”


Russia’s Military developing highly autonomous missile for its stealth fighter

Tactical Missiles Corporation CEO Boris Obnosov said Thursday that the new weapon, which he did not name, would be released within the next few years and would take inspiration from Russia’s greatest military rival, the U.S. Speaking at the annual Zhukovsky-based MosAeroShow (MAKS-2017), Obnosov told attendees that he studied the U.S.’s use of the Raytheon Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile against Russia’s allies in Syria and sought to emulate its advanced technology, such as the ability to switch targets mid-flight, in an upcoming weapon

Earlier this year, General Viktor Bondarev, commander-in-chief of Russia’s air force, discussed equipping such smart missiles to the proposed next-generation Russian stealth fighter, the Tupolev PAK DA. What the PAK DA lacks in supersonic speed, it would reportedly make up for in stealth, electronic innovations and the artificial intelligence-capable missile, which Bondarev said was already in the works as of February.

“It is impossible to build a missile-carrying bomber invisible to radars and supersonic at the same time. This is why focus is placed on stealth capabilities. The PAK DA will carry AI-guided missiles with a range of up to 7,000 kilometers (about 4,350 miles) Such a missile can analyze the aerial and radio-radar situation and determine its direction, altitude and speed. We’re already working on such missiles,” Bondarev told Russia’s official Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in comments translated and analyzed by The Aviationist.


Intelligent Guided Missile

With escalating cost of a missile and the potential damage that an intruding aircraft can cause, there is a need to improve the single shot kill probability of a missile to hundred percent. Present Guided missiles using conventional algorithms like proportional navigation algorithm and its variants are optimal when the speed of missile is very high and the maneuvering capability of the target is low.

However the efficiency of missile may be degraded in battlefield due to many reasons like in case of highly maneuverable fifth generation aircrafts with speeds between Mach-2 and Mach-3. The radars data link is also vulnerable to jamming by the adversary therefore autonomous missile is highly effective in such scenarios.

Recent advances in distributed Artificial Intelligence such as deploying intelligent agents (lA) hold promise of improving the performance and decreasing the misdistance (distance between the target and the closest point of approach of the missile to a small value). Intelligent agents are software entities that come under the category of distributed Artificial Intelligence, and are associated with problem solving functions. They are characterized by some general attributes like autonomy, social ability etc.

M.S Vinoth and others from Department of Computer Sciences Vellore Institute of Technology Tamilnadu , India have proposed  incorporating an IA system on-board a missile that will enhance the kill probability or even achieve the most coveted fire and forget capability.

The on-board radar based sensors on the missile will detect any hostile ground or air activity the missile will directly break from the wireless ground based link and then the control is shifted to the intelligent agent and the series of counter moves will be affected to shoot down the enemy intruder. By this modification the already airborne missile will have much lesser reaction time compared to the traditional radar based and ground stationed SAM(surface to air missile entities) , there by effectively saving the time and increasing the kill probability of the missile. The missile needs to have a much higher speed advantage or to use a combination of artificial intelligence and modern control algorithms, authors say.


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USAF launches LRASM, a long-range, precision-guided, anti-ship missile designed for A2/AD threat environments.

China is fielding large number of long range of antiship ballistic and cruise missiles , strike aircraft, and submarines designed to overwhelm both US air bases and carrier strike groups. According to US Navy, “As the air and missile defense capabilities of potential adversaries rapidly advance, the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to employ short-range precision guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) will be increasingly challenged. China and Russia are also increasingly fielding sophisticated electronic warfare systems that can jam the GPS and other communication links.

The LRASM is a long-range precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile designed to meet the needs of U.S. Navy and Air Force warfighters in anti-access/area-denial threat environments. The LRASM boasts a range of well over 200 nautical miles, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and the ability to strike at nearly the speed of sound. What really makes LRASM stand out is that all of this is completely autonomous. Human beings tell the missile where the enemy fleet is, which ship to strike, and a provide it with a continuous stream of data—the missile takes care of everything else. Using artificial intelligence, the missile takes data and makes decisions all on its own.

Anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) environment could be countered by highly autonomous systems  like  LRASM.  LRASM  missile employs advanced technologies that reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links, and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control LRASM surface-launch director Scott Callaway said: “This successful flight test demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s readiness to answer the US Navy’s need for new anti-surface warfare capabilities as part of the ‘distributed lethality’ concept, which calls for arming even the Navy’s smallest ships with powerful weapons that can hit targets hundreds of miles out

The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully launched the first tactical configuration long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) at the Point Mugu Sea Range in California, US. The launch of Lockheed Martin-built LRASM was carried out by a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber from Edwards Air Force Base in California. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control LRASM director Mike Fleming said: “This was the first flight of a production representative, tactical configuration LRASM.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) B-1B Lancer bomber has successfully test-fired production configuration long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASMs) over the Sea Range at Point Mugu in California. The trial witnessed the launch of two Lockheed Martin-built LRASMs against multiple maritime targets. It met the primary test objectives, including target impact, paving the way for LRASM’s early operational capability.

Earlier, Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) was successfully released from a U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The jettison release of the first LRASM from the Super Hornet is used to validate the aerodynamic separation models of the missile. “The first time event of releasing LRASM from the F/A-18E/F is a major milestone towards meeting early operational capability in 2019,” said Mike Fleming, Lockheed Martin LRASM program director. “The program is executing the integration and test contract, maturing subsystems and proving flight worthiness.”


Enhanced A2/AD environment

China is fielding an ASBM, referred to as the DF-21D that is a theater-range ballistic missile equipped with a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MaRV) designed to hit moving ships at sea. This missile provides the PLA the capability to attack aircraft carriers in the western Pacific. The CSS-5 Mod 5 has a range exceeding 1,500 km [about 810 nm] and is armed with a maneuverable warhead. It can approach its target at hypersonic speed at a near-vertical ballistic angle, capable of executing a series of complex maneuvers during its descent, greatly complicating defensive counter-fire.

The warhead is thought to be composed of numerous cluster munitions that would spread out across the deck of the supercarrier, disabling or destroying exposed aircraft, radar dishes, and antennae as well as killing the flight deck crew, achieving a mission kill without necessarily sinking the ship. The recent DF-26 has a reported range of 1,800 miles to 2,500 miles, may also have an anti-ship capability.

The PLA Navy is also deploying a wide range of advanced ASCMs, the new YJ-12 ASCM provides an increased threat to naval assets, due to its long-range and supersonic speeds. It is capable of being launched from H-6 bombers.

The implication for the U.S. Navy is that it needs aircraft and weapons with longer ranges. The Navy is “going to have to adopt an offensive mindset,” naval strategist Bryan Clark, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee.

Rob McHenry, a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, explained to Aviation Week: “We want US Navy cruisers and destroyers to be able to stand off from outside of potential adversaries’ direct counter fire range, and be able to safely engage and destroy high value targets they may be engaging against from extended range, well beyond potential adversary ranges that we may have to face…

Standoff precision guided weapons

LRASM – a modified version of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – was developed as part of an urgent operational need for U.S. Pacific Command for a modern air launched anti-ship cruise missile.

The capability to employ precision guided weapons at standoff ranges in large numbers will be necessary to ensure operational success in any high-end engagement. Advanced weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile—Extended Range (JASSM–ER), the Longe Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), the Tomahawk missile and others will be key elements in attack execution.”“I need weapons systems of increased lethality that go faster, go further, and are more survivable,” PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate.”

“Once the missile flies that far, it has a requirement to be able to independently detect and validate the target that it was shot at. Finding that target, the missile will have to be able to penetrate the air defenses and finally, once it gets to that target, it has to have a lethal capability to make a difference once it gets there.”

LRASM is first guided by the ship that launched it, then by satellite. The missile is jam-resistant and can carry on even if it loses contact with the Global Positioning System. As part of the targeting system, the missile can be set to fly to a series of waypoints, flying around static threats, land features, and commercial shipping. LRASM can detect threats between waypoints and navigate around them. If it decides it would be entering the engagement range of an enemy ship not on the target list, LRASM will fly around the ship, even skipping waypoints that might lie within enemy range and going on to the next one.

After locating the enemy fleet, it dives to sea-skimming altitude to avoid close-in defenses. LRASM then sizes up the enemy fleet, locates its target, and calculates the desired “mean point of impact”—the exact spot the missile should aim for, taking into account the accuracy of the missile—to ensure the missile does not miss. In most instances that is the exact center of the ship, with the angle of the ship in relation to the missile taken into consideration, reported Kyle Mizokami in PM. Using AI and datalinks, multiple LRASMs can launch a coordinated attack on an enemy fleet.

The LRASM programme supports the US Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) effort to improve its ability to engage and destroy high-value targets from extended range.


Lockheed conducts successful flight tests of LRASM

LRASM is armed with a proven 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, Lockheed officials said. With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets, according to Lockheed Martin developers.

The LRASM, which is 168-inches long and 2,500 pounds, is currently configured to fire from an Air Force B-1B bomber, Navy surface ship Vertical Launch Tubes and a Navy F-18 carrier-launched fighter. The weapon is expected to be operational from an Air Force B-1B bomber and a Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.

Earlier Lockheed Martin has successfully carried out a controlled flight test of the US Navy’s long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) surface-launch variant. Conducted from the navy’s Self Defense Test ship at the Point Mugu Sea Range, California, the event marked the third successful surface-launched LRASM test. The operational LRASM was fired from the MK41 VLS launcher, which flew a pre-planned low-altitude profile, collecting aerodynamics agility data, and then returned to its pre-determined destination.

ViaSat has been contracted to deliver datalink communications for the integration and test phase of the US Navy’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) programme. The follow-on deal was awarded by Lockheed Martin, and will see ViaSat supply Weapon Data Link (WDL) L-Band Units (LBU) in support of missile test programme’s datalink communications requirements.The weapon system will be able to communicate with launch platforms using the ViaSat datalink solution, as well as provide growth opportunities in the future.

The test proved the maturity of the missile, which loaded mission data using the modified Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS+), and aligned mission data with a moving ship in a dynamic at-sea environment.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control LRASM surface-launch director Scott Callaway said: “This successful flight test demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s readiness to answer the US Navy’s need for new anti-surface warfare capabilities as part of the ‘distributed lethality’ concept. In 2013 and 2014, the LRASM was also tested successfully from a ground-based MK 41 VLS Desert Ship. Lockheed is planning to continue with testing of the LRASM on other surface ship applications, including topside, deck-mounted launchers.

Earlier Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy completed the first Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) prototype captive-carry flight tests on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The flights were conducted at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland.  These initial airworthiness flight tests used a LRASM mass-simulator vehicle attached to the Navy’s F/A-18E/F to evaluate flight and handling characteristics, as well as to measure structural loads and strains on the aircraft. A future series of tests would gather noise and vibration data between the aircraft and the missile.

“LRASM is a precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile designed to meet the needs of U.S. Navy and Air Force warfighters in anti-access/area-denial threat environments.”

LRASM leverages the state-of-the-art Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) airframe and incorporates additional sensors and systems to achieve a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile. It is 168-inches long, weighs 2,500 pounds, and has a reported range of 500 nautical miles.

Featuring a multi-modal sensor, weapon data link, and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy enemy threats, the LRASM missile is armed with a 1,000lb penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead.

The current plan is to have the weapon operational on-board an Air Force B-1B bomber by 2018 and a carrier-launched fighter Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.


LRASM, is a collaborative effort between Lockheed, the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency, or DARPA.

The joint DARPA – Navy Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program is investing in advanced technologies to provide a leap ahead in U.S. surface warfare capability. The LRASM is designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships by employing advanced technologies that reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. Autonomous guidance algorithms should allow the LRASM to use less-precise target cueing data to pinpoint specific targets in the contested domain.

LRASM employs a multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said. LRASM is engineered with all-weather capability and a multi-modal seeker designed to discern targets.

Beyond their anti-jamming digital GPS, therefore, LRASM will also rely on a 2-way data link, a radar sensor that can detect ships (and might also be usable for navigation), and a day/night camera for positive identification and final targeting. In its second flight test conducted in November 2014, the missile receiving inflight targeting updates via data-link and scoring a direct hit on the moving ship target.

The program also focuses on innovative terminal survivability approaches and precision lethality in the face of advanced counter measures. In 2015 test, in the final portion of the flight, the missile detected, tracked and avoided an object that was deliberately placed in the flight pattern to demonstrate LRASM’s obstacle-avoidance algorithms.

A key feature of this missile is a terminal guidance system that would allow it to reach a target even if the military were denied access to GPS signals or other network links.

The Lockheed Martin recently tested Joint-Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) that has a multi-mode guidance section with semi-active laser (SAL) sensor for precision-strike and a fire-and-forget millimeter wave (MMW) radar for moving targets in all-weather conditions. JAGM can engage several different stationary and moving targets in the bad weather, smoke and dust, and advanced countermeasures. Laser and radar guided engagement modes enable JAGM to strike accurately and reduce collateral damage, Lockheed Martin officials say


BAE Systems has begun production of an advanced targeting sensor for LRASM

BAE Systems has begun production of an advanced targeting sensor for the emerging Long Range Anti-Ship Missile engineered to track and destroy moving targets from great distances semi-autonomously, developers said. BAE Systems is a subcontractor to main LRASM developer Lockheed Martin. Production of the sensor comes shortly after Lockheed received the first LRASM production contract award from the Navy and Air Force.

Along with advances in electronic warfare, cyber-security and communications, LRASM is design to bring semi-autonomous targeting capability to a degree that does not yet exist. As a result, some of its guidance and seeker technology is secret, developers have said. Overall, LRASM employs the multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.

Developers say the weapon is particularly well suited for the most advanced adversary weapons systems and most high-threat warfare scenarios such as a “near-peer” type of combat engagements. Advanced threat environments are expected to include enemy forces armed with long-range sensors, electronic warfare, tactics for compromising or jamming GPS signals and a host of additional countermeasures designed to thwart incoming surface and air weapons.

“Our differentiator is that our technology can sense, identify, and help target moving ships from a great distance. With our LRASM sensor, we’ve transitioned our world-class electronic warfare capabilities from other platforms to a missile system with extremely low size, weight, and power constraints,” BAE LRASM Program Manager, Joseph Mancini, told Scout Warrior.

US Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW)

Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) will be an offensive weapon system that can be air, surface, and subsurface launched in the maritime battle space environment. OASuW will be a vital component of the Joint Force Anti-Surface Warfare capability and incorporate new and emergent technologies to support an increased offensive strike capability. Due to emerging threats, the fleet issued an Urgent Operational Needs Statement (UONS) that identified a capability gap for a long-range anti-ship missile to be filled by 2018.

Directly supporting this UONS and significantly reducing Joint Force warfighting risks, the U.S. Navy initiated OASuW Increment 1, which leverages the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA)/Office of Naval Research Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) demonstration program to deliver an Early Operational Capability (EOC) in the required timeframe.

OASuW Increment I — an ongoing program between DARPA and the Navy — is being developed using the Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) to meet an urgent operational need from U.S. Pacific Command.

LRASM fills the most urgent air-launched capability gap to compliment, existing ASuW weapon systems and positions the Department of Defense to address evolving surface warfare threats. Longer term OASuW requirements will be addressed in the future by OASuW Increment II.

Set to start in Fiscal Year 2017, the contest for the Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment II seeks to replace the Navy’s decades-old inventory of Boeing RGM-84 Harpoons with more technologically sophisticated weapons.

The Harpoon missile does not have the range or survivability to defeat emerging surface threats. Additionally, the US Navy has reduced the number of Harpoon missiles deployed each year; the Navy’s ability to effectively implement Harpoon in battle is diminished as compared to the 1980s fleet.

Navy also tested in 2015, a sea-based Tomahawk land attack missile against a moving maritime target. The TLAM, however, requires in-flight communication updates to adjust its flight path. However, It does boast nearly twice the range of the LRASM.


References and resources also include:

US DOD developing swarming, autonomous UAVs to counter Anti-access /Area Denial environments

US military is facing increasingly Anti-access /Area denial environment,  a set of overlapping military capabilities and operations designed to slow the deployment of U.S. forces to a region, reduce the tempo of those forces once there, and deny the freedom of action necessary to achieve military objectives . “A2/AD capabilities enabled by integrated air defense systems that include advanced fighters, advanced surface-to-air missiles, active and passive cuing systems, and directed energy weapons” make many U.S. fixed facilities vulnerable to attack in ways hard to imagine a decade ago, according to Harry Foster from National Defense University.

Most of the current inventory of Unmanned Aerial Systems are not  not well-matched in A2/AD environment  against more technologically advanced enemies who present higher levels of threats, contested electromagnetic spectrum and re-locatable targets, according to DARPA. Drones, which currently are flown individually, “are operated by large crews,” “This is expensive and incompatible with an organic system able to react quickly to a dynamic situation.”

One of the technology US Military for defeating A2/AD Strategies is  UAV Swarms technology. Swarms  can find, fix, and communicate precise target location of ground, sea, and air targets; they can serve as weapons platforms to attack air defense systems from multiple axes; or they can pass missile targeting data to any platform carrying a counter air missile. DARPA is planning to develop UAS swarm capability under its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment program (CODE).

The large UAVs are also have large radar cross section hence more vulnerable, hence DARPA is trying to replace large UAV with swarms of small UAVs which shall be difficult to detect and engage. For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well,” said DARPA in a statement.

An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UAS) with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne.  So far, however, the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of reach. Gremlins program, seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems enabling aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air.

Defense Advanced Research Project Agency plans to demonstrate an ability to launch and recover small drones from an Air Force C-130 aircraft as part of its continued development of the Gremlins program – a technical effort designed to deploy groups of small drones carrying 60-pound sensor payloads up to ranges of 300 nautical miles. The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.

 Swarming Autonomous drones

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will seek a $582.7 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget that includes research and development spending on a new “arsenal plane,” swarming autonomous micro drones, and “gun-based” missile defense. The Pentagon seeks to spend $71.4 billion on research and development in the budget, Carter told The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

One of the projects being pursued by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), is developing swarming, autonomous vehicles that will operate as groups in multiple domains. “In the air they’ve developed micro drones that are really fast, really resistant,” Carter said. “They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert.” The miniature drones make use of some commercial and 3D-printed components, he added.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work outlined the pillars of the “third offset strategy,” a plan to develop the technologies that will maintain the American military’s technological superiority. “United States would need to make progress in five key areas: autonomous “deep learning” systems, human-machine collaboration, assisted-human operations, advanced human-machine teaming, and semi-autonomous weapons, “he further said.

Challenge of enhancing endurance of Swarms

To make the swarm a reality, the Pentagon would need to invest in smaller unmanned systems, they also need to bring long endurance and persistence, which means the ability to refuel or recharge in flight.

“Remote recharging would be ideal, perhaps by some sort of directed-energy transmission” According to Cololnel John McCurdy, director for remotely piloted aircraft programmes at the Air Force Academy. The UAS will also require stealth, passive sensors, secure communication links and host of countermeasures.


 Distributed Airborne Capabilities

Small UAS have limited range and responsiveness, however, compared to larger airborne platforms. In November 2014, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) request released request for information seeking information from industry on how to expand the operational envelopes of smaller UAS by using existing military aircraft to transport multiple small UAS into the theatre of operations and launch them while airborne.

“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”


DARPA’s “Gremlins” Could Enable Cheaper, More Effective, and Distributed Air Operations

Gremlins program, seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems enabling aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. The program also aims to prove that such systems, or “gremlins,” could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems, spreading out payload and airframe costs over multiple uses (expected lifetime 20 uses) instead of just one. The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable unmanned systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional manned platforms.

The program envisions launching groups of gremlins from large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft, as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, an initiative aimed at harnessing near-term emerging technologies for operational use, demonstrated an ability to launch small drones from the flare dispenser of an F-16.

“Our goal is to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive and affordable manner,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager.


DARPA plans to focus primarily on the technical challenges associated with safe, reliable aerial launch and recovery of multiple unmanned air vehicles. As algorithms for increased levels of autonomy advance, aircraft will be able to control drones from the cockpit with a pilot in a command and control role, service experts have explained.

The Gremlins program plans to explore numerous technical areas, including:

  • Launch and recovery techniques, equipment and aircraft integration concepts
  • Low-cost, limited-life airframe designs
  • High-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping

Additionally, the program will address new operational capabilities and air operations architectures as well as the potential cost advantages.

DARPA recently completed Phase 1 of its Gremlins program, which envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—or “gremlins”—that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air. Taking the program to its next stage, the Agency has now awarded Phase 2 contracts to two teams, one led by Dynetics, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.) and the other by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.).

“The Phase 1 program showed the feasibility of airborne UAS launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification to the host aircraft,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager. “We’re aiming in Phase 2 to mature two system concepts to enable ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’ using air-recoverable UASs that could carry various payloads—advances that would greatly extend the range, flexibility, and affordability of UAS operations for the U.S. military.”

Gremlins Phase 2 research seeks to complete preliminary designs for full-scale technology demonstration systems, as well as develop and perform risk-reduction tests of individual system components. Phase 3 goals include developing one full-scale technology demonstration system and conducting flight demonstrations involving airborne launch and recovery of multiple gremlins. Flight tests are currently scheduled for the 2019 timeframe.


DARPA programme to explore Offensive swarming operations (OFFSET)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has commenced a project to explore how swarms of robots could be used to operate alongside army and marine units at the company level and below.

OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) seeks to dramatically increase the effectiveness of small-unit combat forces operating in urban environments by developing and demonstrating 100+ operationally relevant swarm tactics that could be used by groups of unmanned air and/or ground systems numbering more than 100 robots.

These swarm tactics for large teams of unmanned assets would help improve force protection, firepower, precision effects, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. OFFSET plans to offer frequent opportunities for engagement with anticipated end users in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps and would share successfully tested swarm tactics with them on a rolling basis.

DARPA  is also reaching out to industry to help it build a game-based open architecture system to test swarm drone tactics in cities. Creating an open architecture system allows small businesses more opportunities to help DARPA develop swarm tactics for unmanned systems. DARPA also emphasized their interested in rapid development prototyping projects as part of their OFFSET program. Rapid development prototyping often times means quicker acquisition programs, which means more opportunities for startups.


for more information in OFFSET:


DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment program (CODE)

The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike, but most current systems demand continuous control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator supported by numerous telemetry-linked analysts. This requirement severely limits the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and compounds the operational challenges posed by dynamic, remote engagements against highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments.

DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program aims to overcome these limitations with new algorithms and software for existing unmanned aircraft that would extend mission capabilities and improve U.S. forces’ ability to conduct operations in denied or contested airspace.

CODE intends to focus in particular on developing and demonstrating improvements in collaborative autonomy—the capability of groups of UAS to work together under a single person’s supervisory control. The unmanned vehicles would continuously evaluate themselves and their environment and present recommendations for UAV team actions to the mission supervisor who would approve, disapprove or direct the team to collect more data.


CODE Phase 2

DARPA is planning to develop UAS swarm capability under its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment program (CODE). DARPA recently awarded Phase 2 system integration contracts for CODE to Lockheed Martin Corporation (Orlando, Fla.) and the Raytheon Company (Tucson, Ariz.). Further, the following six companies—all of which had Phase 1 contracts with DARPA to develop supporting technologies for CODE—will collaborate in various ways with the two prime contractors:

  • Daniel H. Wagner Associates (Hampton, Va.)
  • Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (Woburn, Mass.)
  • Smart Information Flow Technologies, LLC (Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • Soar Technology, Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • SRI International (Menlo Park, Calif.)
  • Vencore Labs dba Applied Communication Sciences (Basking Ridge, N.J.)


“During Phase 1, we successfully demonstrated, in simulation, the potential value of collaborative autonomy among UASs at the tactical edge, and worked with our performers to draft transition plans for possible future operational systems,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager. “Between the two teams, we have selected about 20 autonomous behaviors that would greatly increase the mission capabilities of our legacy UASs and enable them to perform complex missions in denied or contested environments in which communications, navigation, and other critical elements of the targeting chain are compromised. We have also made excellent progress in the human-system interface and open-architecture framework.”

CODE’s prototype human-system interface (HSI) is designed to allow a single person to visualize, supervise, and command a team of unmanned systems in an intuitive manner. Mission commanders can know their team’s status and tactical situation, see pre-planned and alternative courses of action, and alter the UASs’ activities in real time.

For example, the mission commander could pick certain individual UASs from a team, circle them on the command station display, say “This is Group 1,” circle another part of the map, and say “Group 1 search this area.” The software then creates a sub-team with the circled UASs, divides up the search task among those assets, and redistributes the original tasks assigned to Group 1 assets to the remaining UASs. This capability significantly simplifies the command and control of large groups of UASs. Other parts of the HSI research focused on how to display the new plan, including potential impact on other mission objectives, and—depending on pre-set mission rules—either directly executes the plan or waits for the commander’s approval to act

Using collaborative autonomy, CODE-equipped UASs would perform their mission by sharing data, negotiating assignments, and synchronizing actions and communications among team members and with the commander. CODE’s modular open software architecture on board the UASs would enable multiple CODE-equipped unmanned aircraft to navigate to their destinations and find, track, identify, and engage targets under established rules of engagement. The UASs could also recruit other CODE-equipped UASs from nearby friendly forces to augment their own capabilities and adapt to dynamic situations such as attrition of friendly forces or the emergence of unanticipated threats.

“Further, CODE aims to decrease the reliance of these systems on high-bandwidth communication and deep crew bench while expanding the potential spectrum of missions through combinations of assets—all at lower overall costs of operation. These capabilities would greatly enhance survivability and effectiveness of existing air platforms in denied environments.”

CODE’s envisioned improvements to collaborative autonomy would help transform UAS operations from requiring multiple operators for each UAS to having one mission commander simultaneously directing all of the unmanned vehicles required for the mission. Commanders could mix and match different systems with specific capabilities to suit individual missions instead of depending on a single UAS with integrated capabilities, the loss of which would be potentially catastrophic. This flexibility could significantly increase the mission- and cost-effectiveness of legacy assets, reduce development times and costs for future systems, and enable new deployment concepts.

“Just as wolves hunt in coordinated packs with minimal communication, multiple CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft would collaborate to find, track, identify and engage targets, all under the command of a single human mission supervisor,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager.

CODE researchers seek to create a modular software architecture beyond the current state of the art that is resilient to bandwidth limitations and communications disruptions yet compatible with existing standards and amenable to affordable retrofit into existing platforms.

CODE program aims to develop open architecture, algorithms for collaboration and autonomy functions that will bolster UAS scalability, cost effectiveness, interoperability and operational capability and expand UAS operations in hostile environments, according to DARPA.




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Militaries developing Iron Man-style exoskeleton suits to give troops ‘superhuman strength’ or increase their endurance

Some of the missions the soldiers perform can take weeks, away from in difficult terrain like deserts and mountains which requires maintaining an incredibly high level of physical fitness. Around the world, armies are recognizing the importance of maximizing the effectiveness of Soldiers physically, perceptually, and cognitively.


Militaries are trying to augment physical performance, through  Exoskeletons designed to increase the physical strength of the Soldier or increase their endurance. Today’s exoskeletons allow soldiers to carry 17 times more weight than normal and march with significantly less strain on the body. With an XOS 2 suit, for example, a solider can carry 400 pounds but feel the weight of only 23.5.


US army is testing a futuristic exoskeleton that gives soldiers superhuman abilities. The exoskeleton uses artificial intelligence to provide additional power and mobility to soldiers, and allows them to carry heavier loads. US Army chiefs are also developing an Iron Man-style suit to give troops ‘superhuman strength’. When made, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is set to be bulletproof and give the wearer enhanced strength. Fortis could prove particularly useful in urban combat, because it enhances soldier mobility, power and speed, according to the engineers.

The exoskeleton systems are more important in an era when the U.S. Army believes its units may have to operate on future battlefields cut off from regular sources of supply. As a result, soldiers can stand carrying heavy weapons longer—think shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other heavy weapons. Soldiers could also traverse difficult, hilly terrain in places like Afghanistan and Korea with less exertion.


Russian armed forces may soon be fitted with exoskeleton suits every inch of which is bulletproof. The gear consists of heavy body armor and a futuristic helmet that entirely covers the head. Apparently, the helmet’s visor doubles as a screen, which will display tactical information and satellite data to soldiers in real time. The suit weighs almost 100 pounds. To compensate for the limited mobility, Russian scientists added in a powerpack that carries most of its weight and supporting the legs and back. However they require large power and even huge battery packs and wearable solar panels don’t sustain them for more than a few hours. Therefore, the Russian suit won’t be able to carry its own weight for long,  experts say.


The U.S. Army  is also developing soft exosuits  using soft robotics. The Department of Veterans Affairs is also seeking research into soft robotics for exoskeletons to aid wounded veteran. Soft robotics differ from traditional counterparts in some important ways: Soft robots have little or no hard internal structures. Instead they use a combination of muscularity and deformation to grasp things and move about. Rather than using motors, cables or gears, soft robots are often animated by pressurized air or liquids.


US Army’s Future Soldier

Lockheed Martin  has developed new exoskeleton that lessens leg strain and makes it easier for soldiers to carry heavy loads without becoming exhausted. According to Army Technology, a study by the University of Michigan Human Neuromechanics Laboratory found that people equipped with the Fortis leg exoskeleton carrying a 40-pound load at a 15-degree angle experienced significantly less leg strain.

The knee stress release device (KRSD) was designed to boost leg capacity when lifting or dragging heavy objects, or walking on inclines.  The frame fits round the soldier’s legs, and is attached to a belt worn around the waist. The belt connects to flexible hip sensors, which tell a computer where the soldier is in space, as well as the speed and direction of the movements.  Weighing 27 pounds, the exoskeleton  generates synchronized movements at the motorized knees that physically aid the wearer.  Lockheed Martin claims the system improves work rates by “2 to 27 times”, and that it requires a minimum of training to use.

The U.S. Army is also developing a “third arm” device that can be attached to a soldier’s protective vest to hold a weapon. The purpose of the device is to redirect all of the weight of a weapon to the soldier’s body and lessen the weight on the soldier’s arms, freeing up his or her hands for other tasks. The prototype of the third arm weighs less than four pounds thanks to the use of carbon fiber composites. “We’re looking at a new way for the Soldier to interface with the weapon,” said Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the Army Research Laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.


As the Army Research Laboratory explained, some soldiers are weighed down by combat gear heavier than 110 pounds. Those heavy loads may worsen as high energy weapons are developed for future warfare. The third arm could also allow soldiers to use future weapons with more recoil. Additionally, researchers plan to examine the device’s potential applications for various fighting techniques, like shoot-on-the-move, close-quarters combat, or even shooting around corners with augmented reality displays.


MAXFAS exoskeleton improves soldiers’ aim

Dan Baechle, a mechanical engineer at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), has developing the MAXFAS exoskeleton made of light metal and carbon composites and stabilizes the shooter’s arm by correcting errors and helping to increase proficiency. The engineer has modified the therapeutic robotic exoskeletal arm used at the University of Delaware to train stroke victims to move their arms properly.


In tests, subjects wore a laboratory version of the MAXFAS unit that consisted of a cable-driven arm with the motors mounted behind the wearer. The arm is attached to the wearer using carbon composite braces that are equipped with sensors that detect a tremor when taking aim and then signals the motors to adjust the cables and correct it, but does not affect voluntary movements. According to Bachele, when in use, the MAXFAS unit provided feedback that reduced the tremor, which remained reduced after the unit was removed.


Mind-Controlled Exoskeletons

Russian scientists and engineers are working on a technology that is straight out of science fiction: bionic exoskeleton suits controlled by the human brain, according to Zvezda television channel. There are several means of operating robotic suits, including via a muscle interface. Teaching them to understand brain commands is a real challenge though.


“We believe that a neuro-interface connecting the human brain with an exo-suit is the most efficient means of controlling it. The problem is that we need to teach the computer to understand brain-transmitted commands and this is exactly what we are now working on,” Alexander Kulish, department head at the United Instrument Corporation said in conclusion.


Chinese Exoskeletons for difficult environments

A robotic exoskeleton which can help disabled people to walk again will begin production this year, its Chinese developer announced Friday, Feb. 26, the Xinhua News Agency reported.


The report said that since 2010, the Center for Robotics at University of Electronic Science and Technology of China based in Chengdu has been developing the robotic exoskeleton, which is a wearable robot that can be held on one’s waist and legs to help with walking and movement.


The 202 Institute of China Ordnance Industry Group at a June 2015 presentation, showed exoskeleton upgrades, including a larger battery pack on the back, strengthened legs and more powerful, hip mounted hydraulic/pneumatic pumps to power leg movement. The exoskeleton can allow the user to carry over 100 pounds, with enough charge to walk 20 kilometers at a speed of 4.5 km per hour.


202nd sees its exoskeletons eventually being used by frontline infantry in difficult environments like mountainous terrain to easily carry a 100 pound pack of supply and ammunition. Other photos showed that the exoskeleton had enough flexibility to allow lateral ground movement including crawling in the mud while under enemy fire.



Wyss Institute developing wearable exosuits

Army researchers  have  evaluated  prototype devices developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The prototype was developed by researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute under DARPA Warrior Web program.


The lightweight Soft Exosuit is designed to overcome the challenges of traditional heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement. The exosuit is made of soft, functional textiles interwoven into a piece of smart clothing that is pulled on like a pair of pants. It mimics the actions of leg muscles and tendons when a user walks and provides periodic assistance at the joints.


It is intended to be worn comfortably under clothing and could enable soldiers to walk longer distances, keep fatigue at bay, and minimize the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. Alternative versions of the suit could eventually assist those with limited mobility as well


Instead of shielding the wearer, its purpose is to propel them forward and conserve their energy, explains Conor Walsh, lead researcher from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.  “We are intrigued by this challenge because we are so inspired by how our muscles and nervous systems work,” Walsh explains. Using a system of battery-powered sensors, motors, gears, cables and pulleys sandwiched between the fabric layers, the suit senses the wearer’s motion and responds to assist. So far, tests have shown energy savings of seven per cent, and in 2017 Walsh will share the final prototype “with more efficient actuators, sensors and cables,” he says


A series of webbing straps contain a microprocessor and a network of strain sensors— continuously monitoring various data signals, including the suit tension, the position of the wearer (e.g., walking, running, crouched), and more. Batteries and motors are mounted at the waist and cables transmit forces to the joints.


“The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons so a Soldier’s muscles expend less energy,” said Dr. Ignacio Galiana, a robotics engineer working on the project. Galiana said the team looked to nature for inspiration in developing cables and pulleys that interact with small motors to provide carefully timed assistance without restricting movement.


Inspired by a deep understanding of the biomechanics of human walking, the Soft Exosuit technology is spawning the development of entirely new forms of functional textiles, flexible power systems, soft sensors, and control strategies that enable intuitive and seamless human-machine interaction.


DARPA had awarded the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University a $2.9 million contract to further develop the Soft Exosuit under Warrior Web program, which seeks to develop technologies to mitigate musculoskeletal injuries among military Service members while improving performance.



Super-Releaser is developing an orthotic exoskeleton called the Neucuff

Super-Releaser is developing an orthotic exoskeleton called the Neucuff that could drastically reduce the cost of orthotics. The Neucuff is an entirely soft robotic elbow orthosis that can fit a wide variety of bodies without any customization. It is aimed at allowing people with cerebral palsy to move their arms with enough strength and fidelity to take control of tasks like self feeding and dressing that might otherwise require live-in care.


“Soft robotics offers an avenue to apply force evenly across the body with an exoskeleton that is as gentle as it is strong. Being conformal by nature means a single design can fit a wide range of people just like any athletic brace,” according to Super-Releaser’s website.


These orthotics could mean considerable savings for wounded warriors returning from combat after a disabling injury. It could also help make exoskeletons more comfortable to wear, especially when bearing a heavy load.



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US Navy is developing future multimission guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)), with large power-projection capabilities

The US Navy’s “Littoral Combat Ship” program developed a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes. LCS was designed for countering Asymmetric and A2/AD threats.

However according to experts expressed doubt about its power projection capability.  “To put things in perspective, the two variants of the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom and Independence, are substantially larger at roughly 2,900 tons and 3,100 tons respectively—but they do not possess any cruise missile or similar power projection capability,” wrote Garrett I. Campbell Federal Executive Fellow, Brookings Institution. Therefore LCS do not currently possess the power-projection capabilities recently demonstrated by Russia’s Caspian Sea fleet.

The U.S. Navy is looking for inputs from industry on a new multimission guided-missile frigate adapted from existing ship designs, a major departure from its modular littoral combat ship, according to a request for information released Monday. US Navy’s future Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) shall provide Combatant and Fleet Commanders a uniquely suitable asset to achieve select sea control objectives and perform maritime security operations while facilitating access in all domains in support of strike group and aggregated fleet operations.

Unlike the LCS, the frigates should be able to integrate into carrier strike groups and large surface combatant led surface action groups supplementing the fleet’s undersea and surface warfare capabilities. It should also be able to defend itself during independent operations in a contested environment extend the fleet tactical grid, and host and control unmanned systems.

The navy is also expecting the frigate to assume some of the duties of large surface combatants like the over-tasked Arleigh Burke-class destroyers during “operations other than war”. These operations include presence missions, security cooperation activities and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts among other.

The U.S. Navy would like for the ship to be able to Kill surface ships over the horizon, Detect enemy submarines, defend convoy ships, Employ active and passive electronic warfare systems and Defend against swarming small boat attacks.

Major warfare systems that the U.S. Navy would like to have on the frigate include an Aegis-derivative COMBATSS-21 combat management system that uses a common source library, a C4I suite, an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Mk53 Decoy Launching System (Nulka), Four canister launched over-the-horizon weapons, SeaRAM Mk15 Mod 31 in addition to a UAV and an MH-60R helicopter.

What the navy is particularly interested in is the ship’s vertical launch cell potential to support Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2 and/or Standard Missile-2 Active missiles. The navy wants a description of launcher type and cell quantities the proposed design could accommodate.

Other capabilities in “tier two” include various sonar equipment such as variable-depth and towed-array sonar, Cooperative Engagement Capability to be able to share target data with other ships and aircraft in the fleet, rigid-hull inflatable boats, Next Generation Surface Search Radar, and a MK 110 57mm gun and related systems.

The U.S. Navy wants the frigate to have a 25 year service life and a grade A shock hardening for propulsion, critical systems, and combat system elements to retain full air defense and propulsion capabilities.

Navy surface fleet leaders in early 2015 announced a new organizing concept for the Navy’s surface fleet called distributed lethality. Under distributed lethality, offensive weapons such as Anti Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs) are to be distributed more widely across all types of Navy surface ships, and new operational concepts for Navy surface ship formations are to be implemented. The aim of distributed lethality is to boost the surface fleet’s capability for attacking enemy ships and make it less possible for an enemy to cripple the U.S. fleet by concentrating its attacks on a few very high-value Navy surface ships (particularly the Navy’s aircraft carriers), according to Congressional Research Service Report.

A Detail Design and Construction contract is expected to be awarded in FY2020. The navy wants to buy one ship in 2020 and 2021 followed by two ships per year from 2022


The U.S. Navy  New Warship for A2/AD  environment

In terms of the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) Concept, this FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary ISR&T efforts.

This platform will employ unmanned systems to penetrate and dwell in contested environments, operating at greater risk to gain sensor and weapons advantages over the adversary. The FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.

During Phase 0 (Shape the Battlespace) operations, FFG(X) will operate independently to develop a Recognized Maritime Picture and Recognized Air Picture, perform presence missions, conduct security cooperation activities, support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts; and conduct security assistance and security force assistance (SFA). This ship will reduce demand on high end cruisers and destroyers that currently conduct ASW, SUW, and Theater Security Cooperation missions; allowing for an increase of more capable assets to maintain a stabilizing presence in regions where tensions with nations that have highly capable naval forces may exist.

During Phase 1 (Deter Aggression) and Phase 2 (Seize the Initiative) operations, the FFG(X) will normally aggregate into strike groups and Large Surface Combatant led surface action groups but also possess the ability to robustly defend itself during conduct of independent operations while connected and contributing to the fleet tactical grid.

FFG(X) will perform its missions in complex electronic warfare and anti-ship missile threat environments, and, therefore, when available from other Navy efforts, will integrate hard-kill with advanced soft-kill systems at the combat systems level to enable the most effective offense and defense management of onboard weapons and decoy inventories.


FFG(X) missions during these phases include:

  • ·Complement the surface warfare (SuW) capabilities of a Carrier Strike Group and Expeditionary Strike Group with capacity in aggregated operations (e.g., as a pack) to deter or defeat aggression by adversary warships with over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles. Concepts of employment for this type of ship will include integrated operations with area air defense capable destroyers and cruisers as well as independent operations while connected and contributing to the fleet tactical grid. Additionally, this platform must defend against raids of small boats


  • ·Perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW) scout and patrol missions that complement the capabilities of Strike Group and theater operations with enhanced active and passive undersea sensing capabilities.


  • ·Support transoceanic logistics movements by serving as a force multiplier to area air defense capable destroyers. If equipped with weapons providing the required capability and capacity, the ship will independently escort logistics ships during transit through low and medium threat regions.


  • ·Provide robust electromagnetic sensing and targeting capabilities and contribute to force level electromagnetic spectrum control


  • ·Provide electromagnetic information exploitation capabilities and intelligence collection



The FFG(X) aviation capability will include secure and traverse systems for aircraft handling and incorporate the aircraft systems and sensors into an integrated combat system.


To achieve these missions, the Navy desires to use common Navy systems across the radar, combat system, C4ISR systems, and launcher elements. Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical systems commonality with other US Navy platforms is also encouraged.


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