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From the monthly archives:

September 2010

Anyone who can remember Popular Mechanics magazines as far back as the 1950s can remember illustrated stories on the coming super-suits — those metal exoskeletons that would let humans lift incredible amounts of weight and run as fast as a speeding bullet. The concept got a boost in 1986 when Sigourney Weaver donned an oversized one in a movie to fight an alien.

But at long last they may finally be a reality.

One year after unveiling its Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, Lockheed Martin now has a $1.1 million Army contract to test out its robotic suit, and it had its latest version – 4th generation – on display this week at Modern Day Marine at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The suit permits a wearer to carry up to 150 pounds as if it were a fraction of the weight.

The newest version weighs about 60 pounds — some 10 pounds lighter than last year’s model — and also affords better mobility than the one unveiled in 2009, Keith Maxwell, a Lockheed Martin business development manager who was wearing the muscle suit at Quantico on Sept. 29 tells Military​.com. The Marine Corps probably will start testing the suit for itself sometime next Spring, says Maxwell.

But HULC may be in for some competition from “Iron Man,” the name some media have given to the XOS-2, a Raytheon product that’s muscling in on the exoskeleton business.

Where HULC is sleek and wears right up close to the body, the XOS-2 is bulkier, its metallic arms, legs and joints extending well outside the body. In a Raytheon video, a wearer is shown lifting 200 pounds of weights with no effort.

But while Raytheon showed a number of products at its exhibit space at Quantico this week the XOS-2 was not among them. But it will be at the National Harbor outside DC next month for the Association of the US Army Exposition, said one Raytheon rep. According to a map of the expo, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will not be far away from each other.

So will there be a HULC versus Iron Man smack down in Washington?

That would be fight worth paying to see. Even without Sigourney Weaver.

– Bryant Jordan

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By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyber Warfare correspondent

Almost three years ago here on DefenseTech we blogged about cyber assassination and received some ‘interesting’ feedback on and off the blog. Some events that were made public recently demand we revisit this topic.  Just recently, a news article appeared in the Daily Sun – Voice of the Nation that prompted a flood of conversations.  The article, “Cyber Terrorism Hits Nigeria” openly disclosed a cyber assignation of a mob boss that took place not that long ago. 

In Italy, not too long ago, a mob boss was shot but survived the shooting. That night, while he was in the hospital, the assassins hacked into the hospital computer and changed his medication so that he would be given a lethal injection. He was a dead man a few hours later. They then changed the medication order back to its correct form, after it had been incorrectly administered, to cover their tracks so that the nurse would be blamed for the “accident.”

In March 2009 Joseph Weiss, a control systems expert and Managing Partner of Applied Control Solutions, testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee stating that networks powering industrial control systems have been breached more than 125 times in the past decade, with one breach resulting in American deaths.

Clearly the evidence is mounting that cyber attacks are not only disruptive, but deadly.

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Contributed by Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily and Defense Report

The next significant air-launched weapons battle is about to heat up with the U.S. Army’s forthcoming solicitation for a single Hellfire, Javelin and TOW missile replacement called the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM).

JAGM could be worth billions of dollars, and will be integrated onto six platforms – including fixed and rotary wing – for the Army and Navy : the Boeing F/A-18E/F and Apache Block III, Bell AH-1Z and OH-58D, Sikorsky MH-60R/S and General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle .A request for proposals is expected by the end of October.

Meanwhile, two industry teams are wrapping up work on separate $125-million technology demonstration contracts, each of which lasted 27 months. JAGM grew out of the defunct Joint Common Missile effort, which was led by Lockheed Martin prior to termination.

This time, the company is pitted against a Raytheon/Boeing team.During the JAGM technology demonstration phase, both teams were required to conduct three tests, each designed to prominently feature the capabilities of a single mode of the tri-mode seeker required.

The three modes are the semi-active laser (SAL), imaging infrared (I2R) and millimeter wave (MMW) radar, and the tests were conducted in that order. The Raytheon/Boeing weapon, which did not include a new solid-rocket propelled motor under development for the JAGM requirement, scored all three hits. 

Read the rest of this story and more from our Aviation Week friends at Military​.com.

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There are procurement programs and there are “one of those programs” procurement programs.  The Littoral Combat Ship seems in the running to be the latter.  The ship has wrestled with more than its share of glitches and programmatic snags since the beginning — the most recent being the delay of the contractor downselect and the revelation that the mission modules weren’t working as advertised.

And the original soundbite — affordable, low maintenance, small crew, tailorable mission ship (both from a lethality as well as survivability POV) — seems to be increasingly falling on deaf ears as the Pentagon continues to tighten the belt.

Can the Blackshoe Mafia’s pet project survive SECDEF’s budget axe?  These would seem to be bad days to be an expensive platform with critical flaws and a questionably viable mission set (neither a COIN player or something that could keep the Chinese away from Taiwan).

Pat Donley at NAVSEA Public Affairs wouldn’t put a number to our question about LCS unit cost — “We’re in the middle of a competition,” she said — but one of the command’s press releases from late last year (put out during a lull in the “competition” no doubt) gives an idea of the ballpark — and Jerry Jones would be proud:

The total value of the LCS 3 contract, awarded to Lockheed Martin Corporation on March 23,2009, was $470,854,144 which includes ship construction, non-recurring construction and additional engineering effort, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.

The total value of the LCS 4 contract, awarded to General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works on May 1, 2009, was $433,686,769 which includes ship construction, non-recurring construction and additional engineering effort, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.

The contract values do not include government costs which include Government Furnished Equipment, change orders, and program management support costs. The contract values do not include the cost of continuation work and material used from the terminated original contract options for LCS 3 and 4. The value of the continuation work and material from the terminated LCS 3 was $78 million for Lockheed Martin Corporation and $114 million from the terminated LCS 4 for General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works.

The dollar value of the fixed-price-type contracts awarded to each LCS prime contractor to procure two LCS seaframes in FY 2009 was previously considered source-selection sensitive information because the price of the FY 2009 ships was to be linked to the competitive solicitation for the FY 2010 ships. That solicitation was cancelled and a new acquisition strategy does not link the FY 2009 prices with the FYs 2010–2014 source selection, thereby allowing normal release of this contract data.

So let’s give NAVSEA the benefit of the doubt and lop off a swag that we’ll say accounts for additional engineering effort, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.  That leaves us with a sum around $400 million dollars for each LCS.  (I was told there would be no math …)  For context, remember a single F-22 costs around $125 million (and they do air shows). [Continue reading…]

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By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyberwarfare correspondent

Protecting and ensuring the integrity and continuity of the United States’ critical infrastructure is essential to our nation’s security, public health and safety, as well as our economic vitality. Last week General Keith Alexander, director of the new U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, acknowledged the need to enhance the security of our critical infrastructure. He is strongly advocating a “secure, protected zone” that encapsulates our critical infrastructure.

According to DHS, critical infrastructure (CI) are the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.

This is a single component of what has been called a “team approach” to helping protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from devastating cyber attacks. Back in July of this year the GAO issued a report titled — CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION: Key Private and Public Cyber Expectations Need to Be Consistently Addressed.

GAO Cyber Security

This report is an interesting read; however, it needs much more input from the owners and operators of our critical infrastructure of which the private sector owns about 85 percent of the assets. Some pundits point out that public private partnerships do not have a track record of success and add in the military, this partnership will be a huge challenge!

FACT: The military uses an incident command system that is totally different from the one used by DHS, the offices of emergency services in each state and what is used by the private sector.

FACT - The Department of Homeland Security has a database containing over 80,000 components of the U.S. critical infrastructure.

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“Oh no, Iran’s going to get the bomb and nobody’s going to do anything about it…”

“You think Iraq was tough, just try to go up against the Iranian military…”

I know, I know…There’s plenty of reason why the US should avoid any military conflict with Iran over its nuclear program (assuming they even have one). The pitfalls of a kinetic conflict are too numerous to count.

But if the latest pics of the Iranian military parade commemorating the Iran/Iraq war are any indication, the real threat from Tehran is suspect from a conventional military sense. I mean, how embarrassed would you be sitting in that tin can torpedo stolen from a 1930s Buck Rogers set wearing a surplus Korean War Frogman suit? It’s absurd…

But, I gotta give the Persian Mullahs credit, they sure know how to trick out a four-wheeler!

– Christian

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Two of the best reporters on the planet have collaborated for a story today in the New York Times that examines the alarm stemming from the UK’s threat to dramatically slash defense spending.

John Burns and Mike Gordon report that the planned 10–20 percent cuts worry US and Allied defense officials who wonder if after these reductions are put into place, Great Britain will even be a real player in today’s geostrategic environment.

American and British officials said that they did not expect any cutbacks to curtail Britain’s capabilities to fight in Afghanistan over the next five years. But some American military experts question whether the British military will be capable of undertaking future ground operations that are as demanding as those in Afghanistan or to carry out simultaneous operations, including risky humanitarian missions, effectively.

What analysts call a “brutal cost-cutting exercise” could leave the British military, which has fewer troops than the Marine Corps, strategically neutered. And one wonders if the force would even be capable of defending Britain’s interests — not just jumping in on coalition operations. What would happen if a Falklands-like incident happened again?

British defense officials argue They’ll have the British Royal Marines and SAS, along with their nukes and JSF. But with cost pressure mounting on the F-35, is that even a relevant argument?

Adding to the quandary, the British Navy and Air Force can reduce spending by trimming weapons programs, while the army’s principal cost is personnel. The standing British Army has 103,000 soldiers, not including reserves or national guard troops, and army officers have argued that no more than several thousand could be cut without hampering the operation in Afghanistan, where about 10,000 British troops are deployed.

This information is truly scary and leaves America almost totally alone from a coalition standpoint. Our most stalwart ally and military partner could become more of a drag on allied operations than an asset.

Be sure to read the entire piece from John Burns and Mike Gordon at the New York Times.

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