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Archive for June, 2007

When Gun Nuts Get Nutty

Friday, June 29th, 2007

A perfect distraction from a Friday that just keeps dragging on.

Best line: “We’re not doing that anymore…“

Pinnacle Faces Contract Ban

Friday, June 29th, 2007


It looks as if the Air Force has successfully debarred Dragon Skin-maker Pinnacle Armor from participation in government contracts with the service.

During congressional hearings on the issue in early June, Air Force director of the office of special investigations, Douglas Thomas, revealed the service was investigating Pinnacle for falsely marking its SOV 2000 vests as being NIJ certified Level III armor. Without getting into the minute details, Pinnacle owner Murray Neal has basically said he obtained a verbal certification from NIJ pending the official written one.

Its unclear whether the Air Force investigation will result in any criminal charges, but suffice it to say the General Services Administration has included Pinnacle on its list of Excluded Parties that may do business with the Air Force, at least temporarily.

– Christian

The Wall-Crawling Bot

Friday, June 29th, 2007


Yesterday it was Congo, today its Minority Report.

Well, sort of.

They dont look quite as creepy as the spider bots that crawled under doorways and scanned bath tub surfaces in the Tom Cruise hit, but you can see that it might only take a few years to make them that way.

A North Carolina company has developed a technology that can give robots the ability to climb sheer walls. Vortex Holdings, LLC ginned up the so-called Vortex Regenerative Air Movement technology that creates a tornado in a cup, making it possible for small payloads of up to 3.5 pounds to be adhered to walls.

But Vortex took the technology one step further, installing the VRAM device to a mobile platform one that crawls along the walls in any direction, even making the transition from vertical to horizontal surfaces.

Take a look at some of the videos.

Its easy to see the potential military and law enforcement applications of such a device, especially in urban fights where snooping around the corner and peering over that window ledge could mean the difference between popping the bad guy and hitting civilians.

Ill let DT readers decide whether this kind of thing could potentially result in unwarranted and excessive intrusion into civilian life.

(Gouge: RC)


An Electrifying Sentry

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Theres just something so agro about a claymore mine.

Tamp it into the ground, set a trip wire or a command detonation chord and clack one off when the bad guys get too close. Nothing like a spray of 700 ball bearings backed by C-4 to ruin your pursuers day.

But in todays counterinsurgency fight, the mighty claymore comes with a lethal certainty far more final than a hearts and minds fight can stomach.

Weve heard a lot about the controversial Taser system used primarily by law enforcement and civilians uncomfortable with firearms.

But take a look at the companys newest rig one that harkens back to that B-movie Michael Crichton dud Congo.

The TASER Remote Area Denial system uses an infrared camera triggering device that trips an electrifying jolt of Do Not Enter on those who tread where they shouldnt.

TRAD is a revolutionary new concept in area denial, deploying TASER neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) technology to incapacitate intruders who violate areas secured with a TRAD system.

The true power of TASERNET can be realized when TRAD modules are installed in a networked security solution. Ideal for protecting high value facilities or operations such as checkpoints, command centers, depots, aircraft insertions, and spec ops, as well as fixed installations such as embassies, air fields, utility facilities, pipelines, etc., TASERNET provides the user the capabilities of visual observation and oversight coupled with the ability to engage and incapacitate targets remotely. A simple user interface allows the operator to see, track, and identify targets with specific target designators indicating whether each target is a friend or foe.

The TASERNET application displays visual information from TRAD imagers as well as oversight cameras integrated with a graphic representation of targets positions and designations. Once an engagement decision is made (either by the operator or the system depending on user selected settings), the TASERNET program selects the specific TRAD units best suited for engagement and transmits fire authorization. The TRAD unit will then arrest the targeted individuals by providing complete incapacitation. Commands can be issued to the targeted individuals over the TASERNET system and the triggered TRAD unit can be reengaged by the operator as needed to restrain the targeted individuals until response teams can take the targeted individuals into custody.

And you can check out the (pretty creepy) promotional video here

(Hat tip to RC)


Navy Wants “Net-Centric” Back in Vogue

Thursday, June 28th, 2007


Network centric warfare, a term that was in vogue a few years ago, has been rehabilitated by Admiral Gary Roughead, recently appointed to the important position of Commander, Fleet Forces Command, i.e., head of the Navys Atlantic and Pacific ship and air type commanders.

Admiral Roughead spoke at a three-day conference in Virginia Beach on 19–21 June, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). Roughead took over the Fleet Forces Command on 17 May.

He said that U.S. warships need improved capabilities to detect contacts, process data, and distribute the information to other platforms. In an address at the transformation warfare conference, Admiral Roughead expressed concern that the fleet needs a better picture of what other ships and aircraft are at sea as well as in the underwater dimension.

Our strike groups are challenged in persistent surveillance today. And in 2010, I believe that were going to be suffering even more so in the area of persistent surveillance, he said. Maritime domain awareness is where it all begins. We cannot conduct the operations that we must if we dont have a good sense of whats out there, moving on, above or under the sea.


Navy JSF Takes a Step Forward

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007


Marketwatch reports that the F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter has passed its Air System Critical Design Review (CDR), which according to the report is “a significant development milestone that verifies the design maturity of the aircraft and its associated systems.” Completion of the CDR allows the F-35C to move into the Low Rate Initial Production phase of the acquisition cycle.

As most DT readers certainly know, the F-35C will be the Navy’s first stealth aircraft. (Remember the A-12?) The JSF is designed to replace the legacy Hornet and serve alongside the Super Hornet.

The Marketwatch report breaks down the variants like this: “While it shares its fundamental design with the F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing) and F-35B (short takeoff/vertical landing), the F-35C is specialized for the catapult launches and arrested recoveries of large aircraft carriers. It features 30 percent more wing area than the other two variants, larger tails and control surfaces, and wingtip ailerons — all contributing to the precise slow-speed handling characteristics required for carrier approaches. The F-35C’s internal structure is strengthened to withstand the punishment of repeated catapult launches and arrested recoveries on the carrier deck.”

Although the Navy variant is heavier than the Air Force variant, it’ll be flown by Navy pilots and therefore be able to kick the F-35A’s booty in any 1-v-1 scenarios.

Bring it …

(Gouge: NC)

– Ward

Boomer Fleet

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Yesterday it was attack subs, so why not missile boats today?
ssgn_dt.jpgOf the 18 Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines built from 1976–1997, all are still in service. Four of them have been removed from strategic service and have been converted to SSGN cruise missile subs. USS Ohio (SSGN 726) and USS Florida (SSGN 728) rejoined the fleet last year, USS Michigan (SSGN 727) just rejoined the fleet a couple of weeks ago, and USS Georgia (SSGN 729) should rejoin this fall. The remaining 14 Ohios continue to serve as strategic nuclear deterrents much as they did during the Cold War.
Unlike the attack sub force, which has been nearly halved since 1990 with more cuts to come, the missile sub force has not been cut back nearly so much. Though Northrop Grumman’s Newport News recently said it was ready and willing to start designing the next class of boomer, no current plans call for new boats.
If the attack sub fleet finds itself scrambling to justify its existence in an age of asymmetric land warfare, the missile subs have an even tougher task in convincing budgeters of the need for a massive nuclear deterrent in a post-Mutually Assured Destruction world. In fact, the four boats converted to SSGNs were to have been retired beginning in 2002 rather than undergo the upgrade to the D-5 Trident II missile.
How many ballistic missile subs are required to provide the US Navy the deterrent it needs? A study published last year suggests that a force of 10 SSBNs would strike the right balance between capability, cost-savings, and treaty agreements. Current treaty plans indicate a total of around 1440 nuclear warheads for US subs, meaning about 4 per missile if all 14 boats are retained. Each missile now carries up to 8 warheads. The report notes:


Army Seeks Body Armor for New Threat

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007


The Army has issued an industry-wide request for a new kind of body armor that can defeat even more powerful rounds than the current ceramic plate and has opened the door for the new armor construction that includes flexible systems many say are more comfortable than today’s vests.

The new armor insert, dubbed “XSAPI,” is intended stop armor-piercing rounds more deadly than the ones the current “enhanced small arms protective insert” can defeat, will weigh less than a pound more than today’s ESAPI and could have more coverage than the rigid ceramic plates currently fielded to U.S. troops in combat.

The Army’s latest solicitation — dated June 20 — marks yet another chapter in the ongoing debate over allegations that the Army has ignored armor technology that could yield more protection and comfort than its current “Interceptor” vest. In May, an NBC investigative report raised questions over whether a certain type of body armor called “Dragon Skin” was stronger than the Interceptor — which is worn by most American troops in the field.

The NBC report — and the Army counter-attack that followed — gained the attention of the top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, which held a hearing on the subject June 6 and demanded a new set of tests to prove once and for all whether Dragon Skin — or other armor using similar technology — was better than Interceptor.

Dragon Skin employs a flexible system of interlocking ceramic disks that the manufacturer, Fresno, Calif.-based Pinnacle Armor, says is more comfortable and can endure more rifle shots than Interceptor. The ESAPI employs a series of rigid ceramic plates inserted into the front, back and sides of the Interceptor “outer tactical vest.“

After the congressional hearing, the Army revised its earlier May 27 request for new armor to test, adding the XSAPI specs and opening the offer to flexible, or “scalar,” systems. The Army also extended the period for manufacturers to submit their proposals by 30 days — until the end of August — a move congressional staffers say will give Pinnacle plenty of time to submit the vests needed for testing.

“The Army seems to be accommodating Pinnacle as far as it can,” a top House Armed Services Committee aide told Defense Tech.


Are You Up to the CNR Challenge?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

For those of you who might not have what it takes to make it on American Idol, the Navy has stepped in to help make your dreams come true.

The Chief of Naval Research has $1 million in cold hard cash to dole out to companies who have new and actionable ideas in certain areas of naval technology that can help boost the effectiveness of the force.

Companies with ideas the Navy can use will be offered the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Navy officials during a technology conference in Washington, D.C., that kicks off July 30.

The Navy is interested in the following technology areas:

Power and Energy

Operational Environments

Maritime Domain Awareness

Asymmetric and Irregular Warfare

Information, Analysis, and Communication

Power Projection

Assure Access and Hold at Risk

Distributed Operations

Naval Warfighter Performance and Protection

Survivability and SelfDefense

Platform Mobility

Fleet/Force Sustainment

Affordability, Maintainability, and Reliability

Last year, the Navy garnered over 50 CNR Challenge submissions, awarding research money to five of them.

A representative project is the Pegasus self-charging unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) for persistent littoral antisubmarine warfare from Nekton Research LLC. The Pegasus concept is an autonomous self-recharging underwater vehicle with capabilities for persistent wide-area surveillance that can operate against currents and in very shallow and riverine environments. It recharges itself by
extracting energy from microbially active sediments on the sea bottom. This enables it to act as a recharging station for other unmanned underwater vehicles or to rise again into the water column to conduct surveillance

Presented by the National Defense Industrial Association with technical support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the 2007 Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference will provide key insights into the Navy and Marine Corps drive to enable revolutionary Naval operational concepts that meet the challenges of the 21st Century through strategic investment in science and technology. Special emphasis will be placed on power and energy for the fleet and force. Attendees from industry, academia, and government will be informed of the direction, emphasis, and scope of the Department of the Navys investment in science and technology and how to conduct business activities with the Naval Research Enterprise.

So, shipmates, do you have what it takes to meet the CNR Challenge?


Attack sub fleet

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

ssn-708_retired.jpgNavy Bids Farewell to Minneapolis-St. Paul:

After more than 23 years of service, the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) inactivated in a ceremony June 22 at Pier 3 at Naval Station Norfolk.

Concerns remain that our shrinking fleet is going to leave us with our pants down at some point, and that our anti-sub warfare capabilities (or, rather, our lack thereof) could leave serious gaps waiting to be exploited. Two world wars showed that submarine fleets were able to have a drastic effect on the wider military and economic efforts of the combatants.
While no one is going to challenge our supremacy in the realm of carrier-centered naval power, even just the threat of submarines could potentially keep those carriers from operating when and where we need them to. We’ve seen anti-mine capabilities whither over time. Are ASW capabilities going to suffer the same fate?
The attack sub fleet is part of the ASW effort, and when you couple the shrinking hunter fleet with the retirement of the S-3 Vikings, the delays in the P-3 Orion’s follow-on (the P-8A Poseidon MMA), and questions about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, I suspect that we’ve got reason to be concerned about our ability to combat enemy submarines that could threaten our surface forces and logistics fleet, let alone commercial ships.
The USS Hawaii (SSN 776) was just commissioned last month, so it’s not like the fleet just shrank the other day. USS North Carolina (SSN 777) will join the fleet next year. But the long-term plan is to reduce the number of attack boats in the fleet by a significant number. Not every boat retired in the coming years will be replaced by a new one. We currently have 53 operational attack subs in the fleet.
A 2005 study by the Navy itself said that 48 is the “minimum number of attack submarines needed to maintain an acceptable level of risk at an acceptable cost.” But the current plan to acquire Virginia-class subs like the Hawaii and North Carolina will put us under the 48-boat level for sixteen of the twenty-seven years between 2007 and 2034, bottoming out at 40 boats in 2028 and 2029. For more, see the Heritage Foundation articles The Navy Needs to Close the Projected Gap in the Attack Submarine Fleet and Congress Should Accelerate Submarine Procurement.