Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hawkei Australian Light Protected Vehicle

Thales Australia has released images of a mock-up of its Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicle proposed for the Australian Army under the LAND 121 Phase 4 program. This is a smaller vehicle than the Bushmaster and designed to replace un-armoured Landrovers.

The Hawkei is claimed to "... become a fully integrated node on the network centric battlefield" with C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence). However, apart from having sufficient electrical generating capacity, it is not clear how a vehicle could have C4I fundamental to the design. Computer and telecommunications change much faster than vehicle designs. If the Hawkei had C4I closely integrated, the design would be obsolete with eighteen months.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ship and truck launched Australian Military UAV

In "Robots at war" I mentioned the Aerosonde UAV, which I got to hold some years ago in Melbourne (Australia). Just after writing that I picked up a copy of Defence Technology International (DTI, July/August 2009). This has two full page advertisements for the Aerosonde. One shows it being recovered with a net on the helicopter deck of a US Navy amphibious assault ship. The other advertisement shows the aircraft being launched from a truck mounted catapult and being recovered with a similar net to the one on the ship. The advertisements are from AAi Corp, part of Textron Systems.

What might be a useful capability for the US Marines and for smaller defence forces, such as Australia, would be a truck mounted system which could also be used on board ship. The truck mounted UAV system could be driven onto a transport ship (such as an amphibious assault ship) and operated while on-board. For a semi-permanent installation, the launch and recovery systems could be on pallets transported on a flatbed truck, such as the cargo variant of the Australian made Bushmaster. The pallets could be removed for mounting on the ship.

The Aerosonde was designed to be launched from the roof rack of a car driving on a runway and landed with a belly flop on grass (it has not wheels). This much more gentle than catapult launches and net recovery. The aircraft is made entirely of carbon fibre and so was probably strong enough.

But these advertisements should be treated with caution. Military companies frequently promote concepts as if they were proven products. It is not clear if the photos are of real working systems, or even if they are real photos or digital mock-ups.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Military cargo vehicles on test around Canberra

Last week there was a convoy of armoured military cargo vehicles were on test on the highway from Canberra. These were lead by the Copperhead cargo variant of the Australian made Bushmaster. It was followed by a line of other similar sized vehicles with armoured cabs, all carrying standard size concrete block test loads.

The Bushmaster looked the most elegant design, with the cab integrated with under body panels beneath the load bed. It is not clear if the anti-mine armour under the load area has been retained in the cargo version of the Bushmaster. This would have advantages when personnel, valuable or explosive loads are carried, but would limit payload.

The other vehicles appeared to be standard military trucks with armoured cabs added, some appearing very crudely bolted onto the truck chassis.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bushmaster six wheeled armoured vehicle

Photo montage of a Bushmaster 6wd armoured vehicleThe Australian-built Bushmaster four wheeled armoured vehicle has proved popular with the Australian, Dutch and British military. Perhaps the makers, Thales Australia, in Bendigo, should stretch it by adding an extra set of wheels to make a six wheel drive vehicle.

The current Bushmaster is 7.18 m long, weighs 12.4 tonne and can carry 9 passengers. Adding two extra wheels would make it about 1.5 m longer and allow for four more passengers. This would also allow for more cargo, or for the vehicle to operate on softer surfaces with lower pressure per tyre.

There have been concerns about the off road performance of some of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and their susceptibility to roll-over. As the Bushmaster has been designed as an armoured vehicle, it should be less susceptible to this problem than trucks with armour bolted on.

Normally a larger vehicle would require a larger engine, but the Bushmaster 6 x 6 could have a small electric motor and CSIRO UltraBattery added to make it a hybrid. As well as reducing fuel use, this woulda allow the vehicle to operate in stealth mode when stationary and at low speed, with the main engine off.

Oshkosh offer a Bushmaster 6 x 6 variant in the USA, but it is not clear if one has been built or tested. The image of a six wheeled Bushmaster on this page is a montage created from the Wikipedia photo of the Bushmaster.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Flexible Australian solar panels for military use

They didn't take up my suggestions for lightweight solar panels for the F-35, or solar generating windows for the Bushmaster vehicle, but ANU's Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems has won a defence contract to develop solar panels for the military.
Elongate Solar Cells for Energy Generation (The Australian National University) – Flexible solar panels with high efficiency under both normal and subdued light and with high power-to-weight ratios. These solar cells would allow soldiers to generate power in the field and reduce the need for batteries. The technology may be suitable for incorporation into wearable textiles. The proposal builds on extensive solar research undertaken by The Australian National University. ...

From: Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program Collaboration, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), 20 June, 2008

Building solar panels into wearable textiles is a very difficult task. Solar cells are fragile and shiny. This makes them difficult to combine with military camouflage clothing. It would be a lot easier if the cells were built into something less flexible other than most clothing. Here is an alternative suggestion:

Low observability conformal solar panel matrix

The Low observability conformal solar panel matrix (LOCSPM) consists of thin SLIVER solar cells embedded in a resin fiber matrix. The matrix allows light to reach the cells, while supporting the cells and blocking reflections and radiation from them. The matrix consists of a grid which forms a high strength lightweight support. The matrix is composed of material which absorbs stray visible, infrared and radar frequency radiation.

The standard matrix is rigid, but can be made in shapes to conform to military equipment, such as the cases for radios and other electronic equipment, the covering of a helmet, protective vest, boots, vehicle or shelter roof panels. The matrix can be made in standard camouflage colors and patterns. The matrix can contribute to the ballistic and structural properties of the equipment it is attached to, proving protection from blast fragments and additional strength.

Flexible panels are also possible. For large scale non-mobile applications the panels can be made to track the sun for increased efficiency.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Armored Vehicles for Australian Federal Police

Ballistic and Mine Blast Protection of BushmasterAccording to a news report the Australian Federal Police (AFP) plan to acquire armoured vehicles for its overseas operations. These will most likely be similar to the Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicles used by the Australian army.

There are smaller purpose built armored vehicles, such as the MOWAG Eagle, and civilian four wheel drives with armour added are used by other police forces. But it is difficult to add sufficient ballistic and mine blast protection to a small vehicle and still have a usable payload.

Remote Weapon SystemThe vehicles would not be armed, but what they will need is good communications to be able to keep in touch with police and military and to be able to know what is going on around them. It might be of value to retain the Remote Weapon Station which larger military armored vehicles are fitted with, but equip it with a less than lethal weapon, such as a tear gas projector. The RWS may also be equipped just with a camera for surveillance and collection of evidence.

Perhaps the AFP could also get some armored Piaggio MP3 three wheel scooters. While not as well protected as a armored car, this would be better than the completely unprotected motorcycles typically used for liaison duties.

... About 320 AFP officers are on overseas deployments in more than 10 countries including the Solomons, East Timor, Nauru, Sudan, Cyprus, Cambodia and Afghanistan. ...

The move reflects a sharp expansion in the overseas operations of the AFP in recent years in both peacekeeping roles and counter-terrorism. ...

The multi-million-dollar investment in the AFP, including the armoured vehicles purchase, recognises that both army and police are vital to the success of long-term nation-building missions such as those in East Timor and the Solomons. ...

From: AFP to raise armoured unit, Cameron Stewart, The Australian, November 07, 2007

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Advanced vehicle systems for developing nations

Systems such as the $US395 Ford Sync car dashboard computer show that computer technology for cars is now affordable for more than just upmarket models. Recently I was asked for some ideas for research on vehicles and IT and so suggested using in car computers to provide facilities usually requiring expensive roadside infrastructure and be used to reduce traffic congestion and fuel use, particularly in developing nations.

Theme: Advanced vehicle systems for developing nations

This research will focus on the use of current or soon to be available mass produced computer and telecommunications hardware which can cost effectively applied to vehicles by use of advanced new computer applications. The technology will be developed for and tested in Australia's remote and harsh outback conditions and then sold to existing markets in the Middle East and new markets in developing nations, such as India and China. This will address the AutoCRC's mission to deliver smarter, safer and cleaner vehicle technology for Australia's benefit.


Technology which could be applied on a small scale by one manufacturer will be emphasized, rather than systems which require widespread industry adoption or government mandate. Instead of the "trickle down" approach, where technology developed for dense US and European roads has to be modified, the technology will be developed with these conditions in mind. Australian long distance driving, and for similar conditions in the middle east, demand different features from vehicle systems. Developing nations cannot afford large scale infrastructure to support advanced vehicle systems and so a more independent approach is needed.


* CAR COMMS: Many vehicle technology applications assume that a reliable wireless communications network is available, usually provided by the cellular telephone network. However, this network is not universally available outside Australian urban centers. Also such systems are not necessarily affordable for the envisaged applications, particularly in developing nations. Mesh networks offer a low cost alternative form of communications, but a number of research questions remain before they could be considered reliable, particularly when used from moving vehicles. This research would look at software designs for WiFi and WiMax mesh networks for cars. The systems would be designed for adhoc car to car communications , as well as integration with the newly announced Australian WiMax system. The communications system would be used for entertainment, person to person communications and car navigation tasks.

* DASHBOARD INTERFACE: Many cars will have a computer screen in the car dashboard which either came with the car or was added. These systems can be used for family social use and for mobile e-commerce applications, such as taxi trucks in developing nations. However, the cost of developing an application for these systems is currently prohibitively high. This research project would look at a toolkit of application components using Web 2.0 related technology to build social and commercial applications for vehicles.

OpenMoko provides a standard open source hardware platforms for developers of in-car computers. The Reva NGX show-car model showed the use of similar technology, with an Indian made Linux touch screen computer in the dashboard.

* VEHICLE INTERFACE: Modern cars have computer controlled systems which could be used for remote monitoring and automated control. This research would look at how to provide standardized interfaces to engine management, breaking, steering and other onboard systems.


* FAMILY TRIP PLANNER: The family would use the car communications network and dashboard screen to plan trips. The screen could automatically show where the family is, from the location of their smart phones and plot this against the car location and family schedule. The system could then automatically route the driver to family events:

"... the built in phone would refuse to take any calls while your car was in motion. The automated voice response system would say on your behalf "Yes dear, I am on his way to pick up the kids, ETA is 2 minutes. I have parking slot 3 reserved in the school queuing system. Press 1 if you want me to get some milk on the way home, press 2 for bread ...".

From: Re: RUF Dual Mode transport system, Tom Worthington, Link Mailing List, Jun 7 09:39:27 EST 2006
This is the scenario I suggested AIIA CEO, Sheryle Moon's
talk on "The ICT Industry In Australia".

* SMART ROAD TOLL: The current toll roads, such as the Sydney M7 are based on expensive RFID or optical number plate recognition infrastructure. Also the toll amount is fixed, resulting in under use of the road at off peak times. Cars equipped with communcations and location systems could provide a lower cost option for tolling. The vehicle could also advise the toll road of the drivers intended route and time, to set a suitable price.

* SMART ROAD: Vehicles could cooperatively communicate the road conditions to each other and to traffic authorities. Vehicles slow or stopped in a lane could be advised to oncoming drivers and to authorities. Existing systems for this rely on expensive networks of in road sensors or cameras.

* SAFETY OF LIFE ON ROAD: SOLOR would provide a system for automatic commercial vehicle tracking for safety purposes. It would be analogous to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used by international shipping under the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). SOLOR would monitor all commercial vehicles for public safety and conformance with cargo safety, driver fatigue and other rules. An adaption of the system would be available for use in trouble spots to monitor all commercial vehicles for detection of possible truck bombs.

* TRAVELLING WIRELESS HOTSPOT: Public vehicles, such as busses, could be equipped with mobile wireless hotspots to connect both their own passengers and surrounding cars to the Internet. This would provide a lower cost and more robust system than fixed roadside antennas.

* PIMP MY RADIO: The Pimp My Radio demonstrator vehicle would be outfitted with an advanced audio and video digital entertainment system, in the style of the MTV show Pimp My Ride. In addition to a high quality surround sound system, the vehicle would have high resolution screens and multi player online game consoles. The vehicle systems would be interfaced to form part of the game, with the vehicle and its occupants being represented by avatars in My Space and similar systems.

* CAR SHARE SYSTEM: Systems such as Australia's GoGet car share offer access to cars for those who only need them occasionally or cannot afford to won one. GoGet's current web based booking system and RFID tags could be built into the car communications system, allowing better utilization at a lower cost.

* GUIDED HIGHWAY: Light rail provides an efficient method of public transport in urban areas. However, the startup costs are high and does not suit organic growth. There have been various proposals for road vehicles adapted to guided ways, the longest such route in the world being the The longest guided busway in the world being the Adelaide O-Bahn Busway. Such systems have depended on mechanical modification of specially procured vehicles. Proposals for advanced computer controlled guided systems have not been successful. This project will research the adaption of existing vehicles, particularly hybrid cars, and hybrid light trucks and mini-busses for automated guidance. The existing onboard computer controlled systems would be modified with a minimum of additional hardware and using a wireless network for tolling, navigation and safety. The and the existing in-dash computer would be used for the driver interface. The system would be designed so provide car owners, taxi truck and mini-buss operators could drive their own cars onto the guided road.


Many of the issues with the use of vehicle mounted communications in remote areas also apply to the military. Adhoc self forming networks could be applied to the Australian Defence Force's need for communications in remote areas at short notice. In vehicle screens could be applied to situational awareness for Australian Army ASLAV and Bushmaster vehicles. This could also be used for civilian contractor vehicles used in conflict areas, where a full military communications fit out was not feasible.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Sliver Solar Cells for Military And Domestic Use

Andrew BlakersProfessor Andrew Blakers presented an inspirational talk today, on the Australian National University's sliver solar cell technology. But what is needed is more research funding to develop the technology into a usable product. Andrew sees the cells being cheap enough to be installed by individual householders and businesses, as well as for solar power stations.

At present solar cells are cost effective for remote locations off the grid, such as Illawong Lodge and Kings Canyon:
Illawong LodgeIllawong Ski Tourers manages Illawong Lodge, located at about 1600 metres altitude in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, Australia. Illawong is several kilometres from the nearest roads, power, gas, water, sewer, telephones, ski lifts, and other services. ...

The first hut built here in 1925-26 was called Pounds Creek. ... The lodge consists of four small rooms with a roof and walls of iron, floor of wood, lined. It includes an innovative high-country solar power system for lighting.

From: Illawong Ski Tourers
Kings Canyon Solar Power Station
Kings Canyon is a high-profile tourist resort in Central Australia's Watarrka National Park in the arid zone. The remote resort previously relied on a diesel-fuelled power station. ... Peak power demand in the Northern Territory closely matches solar availability, with the peak occurring early afternoon. The PV system provides peak load and is run in tandem with a smaller diesel engine. Battery storage is not required since the diesel engines supplement ...
From: Kings Canyon Solar Power Station, Australian Business Council - Sustainable Energy 2006
However, research funding is likely to come for more exotic applications first. The first uses for solar cells were military and remote uses in telecommucations.

Some which the sliver cells might be applied to are:
  1. Solar Building Panels for China: The usual location for solar collectors on buildings is the roof. However, high rise buildings have only limited roof space. An alternative would be to use the same micro-louver technology as for military vehicles (below) and build the cells in to wall and window panels. Sun facing vertical panels would have cells arranged horizontally facing up towards the sun. For windows, sufficient space would be left between the cells to allow the occupants to have a view out the window. The cells could be made in aluminum frames as a direct replacement for domestic and commercial cladding, balcony balistrades and windows. Such panels could be used by the million for Shanghai offices and apartment blocks.
  2. Lightweight solar panels for the F-35 Lightening II JSF: Sliver cell panels could be incorporated into the sun shields used to protect aircraft cockpits on the ground. This would have the dual function of cooling the cocpit and providing power to keep the aircraft batteries charged. The sliver cell shades would be light, flexible and compact enough to be stowed aboard the aircraft for deployment. Research for this could be funded under the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project.
  3. Solar generating windows for military vehicles: Military vehicles, such as the Australian ADI Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle have difficulty keeping the occupants cool in desert regions and supplying sufficient electrical power for equipment. These vehicles have flat armored windows which could be fitted with sliver cell panels. The cells could be arranged as micro-louvers to shade the interior of the vehicle, while optimizing solar collection to power equipment. The silver cells have an anti-reflective coating which would enhance the situational awareness of the occupants of the vehicle, while reducing the visible and infrared signature. The ability to generate electricity would reduce the fuel consumption of the vehicle and its sound signature when stationary, as the diesel engine would not need to be run as much.

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