Sunday, March 21, 2010

Australian Robot Aircraft Launched from US Stealth Warship

The Australian developed Aerosonde UAV has been succesfully launced and recorved from the US stealth warship M80 Stletto, according to Janes International Defence Review ("Aerosonde Mark 4.7 UAS proves shipborne capability", March 2010). The AAI Aerosonde Mk 4.7 is one option for the US Navy/US Marine Corp's Small Tactical UAS (STUAS)/Tier II programme. The Aerosone carries visable and infrared sensors and a laser range finder/pointer. The Aerosonde is small enough to be lifted by one person but can fly for 12 hours and an earlier model flew accross the Atlantic Ocean.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Research to the Real World

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where former student Kevin Moore from General Dynamics Mediaware is talking about Commercialising Research: Real-world Applications and Challenges of Digital Video. His company's applications include processing video from the US Predator UAV aircraft used by the US military in Afghanistan and sport video at the Beijing Olympics.

Dr. Moore is discussing how an idea from a research project becomes a commercial product. He pointed out that licensing the intellectual property from a research organisation may take years and require a share of the company or licensing fees . Mediaware obtained government and defence start-up grants, but even so the founders did not take salaries initially and the company started out in a very modest office. The company moved from selling consumer vdeo software to "prosumers". Customers were not just the usual home video market, but also lawyers and professionals. The company is modestly successful, with 90% of the revenue from outside of Australia. In 2008 the company was purchased by General Dynamics, but still operates out of Canberra.

Dr. Moore suggested not "chasing the market" but instead concentrate what real customers need. He used the example of the product InStream. The market was for regioanl TV broadcasters who needed to insert local advertisments into TV content for new HD TV. Existing prodycts ere designed for capital city stations and not affordable for small stations. The traditional was to implement this would be to decode the MPEG video, insert the ads and recode. Mediaware produced a software based system to insert the ads.

From prototype to product took 18 months. This was used by Prime for the Beijing Olympics and won an award. Despite this success, the product still does not have another customer. One problem is that potential customers do not believe that such a product is technically possible and therefore there is not a demand.One obvious use I can see for this technology is to insert information into the video stream from UAV surveillance aircraft.

Dr. Moore then showed examples of JPEG2000 for Wide Area Airborne Surveillance. Military manned and unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan are recording very large amounts of video data over wide areas. This is creating a large data management problem. Mediaware are working on systems to manage this. He commented on the difficulty of collecting requirements from users where the application is highly classified. Another issues is to adjust the quality of the video to suit the avialable military bandwidth.

Dr. Moore then invited the ANU students to apply for a job.

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Processing Predator UAV Video

Kevin Moore from Canberra company General Dynamics Mediaware will talk at the ANU in Canberra today about how they compress video, in: Commercialising Research: Real-world Applications and Challenges of Digital Video. Applications include processing video from the US Predator UAV aircraft used by the US military in Afghanistan and the Beijing Olympics. Mediaware hires ANU students to work on software.
Seminar Details
Commercialising Research: Real-world Applications and Challenges of Digital Video
Kevin Moore (General Dynamics Mediaware)

DATE: 2010-02-25
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

MPEG video compression and transmission standards are a major enabling technology driving the digital broadcast and distribution industries. Digital television, IPTV DVDs and Blu-ray Discs all use variants of MPEG to transmit and display content. General Dynamics Mediaware is a Canberra company that has been engaged in research and implementation of MPEG technologies for over ten years, and has emerged as a leading global developer and supplier of compressed digital video processing solutions to the Broadcast and Defence industries.

In this presentation, we will introduce Mediaware's unique compressed-domain frame-accurate MPEG repurposing technologies, whose commercial applications include

- Real-time splicing systems deployed by Prime TV across the Australia's East Coast, facilitating the HD TV broadcast of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games;

- Stream capturing, analysing, annotation, editing software integrated in General Dynamics Multi-Int Analysis and Archive System, and in General Atomics Predator ground station.

We will describe MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, the standard used in HD TV, Blu-ray DVD and by services such as YouTube and iTunes, and present some of the technical challenges of compressed-domain editing given its computational complexity.
Dr Kevin Moore is the Chief Technology Officer of General Dynamics Mediaware and is responsible for identifying and developing Mediaware's product and technology strategic vision.

Joining Mediaware in 1998 shortly after it was founded, Kevin was part of the engineering team responsible for the development of Mediaware's core capabilities in native MPEG and H.264/AVC editing, compressed domain scene change detection, video playback, stream capture, and helped build the first two generations of desktop editing products.

Prior to joining Mediaware, Kevin spent 7 years as a Research Scientist at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, working on a range of image processing and scientific data visualization projects. Kevin has BSc and PhD degrees in Computer Science from the Australian NationalUniversity, and a broad background in video and image processing, high performance computing and software engineering.

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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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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Robots at war

"Wired for war : the robotics revolution" (Singer, P. W. 2009) is a very readable book about the use of robots in modern warfare. It suffer from having a very US centric view of the field and providing a few too many anecdotes. But it is an easy read for someone needing an overview.

Singer starts with anecdotes about the use of bomb disposal robots in Iraq. He describes the origins and different development philosophies of the two major companies supplying the US defence department. Having attended a seminar by Professor Rodney Brooks, an Australian from Adelaide and one of the founders of iRobot, I can see that Singer's analysis is insightful.

What is missing is the discussion of the development of robotics outside the USA and the role of the scientific research community. As an example, the Aerosonde UAV, which is now being marketed to the military, was developed in Melbourne, (Australia), for taking meteorological measurements (thus the name "Aero-sonde". The aircraft was later adapted for other remote sensing and military applications.

Aerosonde pioneered small long endurance autonomous UAVs (having flow across the North Atlantic). Previously it was assumed that UAVs small enough for a person to lift would only have a range of a few hours.

One problem with innovation is having something too different from the competition. Aerosonde faced this with their early models which were controlled from an ordinary laptop computer. This removed the need for specialised control units. But rather than being seen as an advantage, this counted as a disadvantage in the logic of military procurement. With the Aerosonde Mark 4.7, released in March, there has been effort to provide compatibility with military UAV systems, such as NATO STANAG 4586 standards for UAV ground stations (also see the STANAG-4586 LinkedIn Group).

Aerosonde also pioneered the idea of UAVs being provided as a service, rather than individual aircraft purchased by the customer. This idea is yet to take off with UAV customers, but with widespread use, it appears an idea who's time has come. This concept is not discussed in Singer's book.

Earlier in the year the Australian and US Defence Departments announced the Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC 2010). This is a competition researchers to build a fleet of cooperating autonomous ground vehicle systems (robots) for military and civilian emergency use. These will be tested in Australia in November 2010.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Submarines and Stealth Aircraft for Australia

The Australian Government released "Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030" on 2 May 2009. This is a detailed policy document ("white paper") , the unclassified version being 143 pages (PDF 1.83 Mb). The most notable proposals are for 12 long range submarines and 100 stealth fighter bombers. The document is deficient in not discussing the role automation will have in changing defence by 2030. Also the report fails to plan for the use of ICT in defence, which could provide significant savings to pay for the proposed equipment.

There has been concern from commentators over the $100B cost of the proposals and $20B in savings the Government plans to obtain from Defence to pay for them. As a former official in the ADF HQ I can understand that such savings will be difficult to achieve. However, a greater problem may be finding the increased numbers of highly trained personnel to operate all of the proposed equipment and to pay for their training and salaries.

Unmanned Vehicles

A major failing in the white paper is the lack of recognition of the role of automation in reducing the cost and extending the capability of military equipment. While Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), are known in the popular press, there are also now also robot submarines: Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) , and robot tanks: Unmanned ground vehicles (UGV).

The Australian Government plans to acquire seven large high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs in the class of the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Underwater and land based autonomous vehicles are less developed and currently only short range add-ons to manned platforms, but this likely to change before 2030.

Eight new Future Frigates, are envisaged to embark a combination of manned naval combat helicopters and maritime Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). However, apart from that and the long-endurance UAVs, there is no mention of the role of automation in Australia's defence.


The paper proposes 12 new longer range submarines. Using conventional technology these vessels will require larger crews that the current submarines, for which the RAN is already having difficulty finding personnel. There are ways in which the submarines to be ordered could be operated with smaller crews. Australian designed and built Joint High Speed Vessels could also extend the range of the submarines.

In addition to automation of the submarines to reduce crews they can have their capabilities extended with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) , which are essentially torpedo shaped robot submarines. Australia has expertise in this area, with the Australian National University developing a miniature short range AUV and CSIRO operating "gliders" which can operate for 30 days, covering 200 km and relaying data by satellite.

Aircraft Carriers

Australia has already ordered two "Landing Helicopter Dock" (LHD) ships, to be be named HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide (Canberra class). The Spanish design has a "ski jump" on the flight deck for operating aircraft such as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The defence department has denied that there are plans to use these ships for other than helicopter transport. However, it would seem to be reasonable for 24 of the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to be the F-35B Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) model, so they can operate from the ships.

Cyber Warfare

The white paper appears to have missed the point that computers and telecommunications have revolutionised the way industry and government operate. The words "Internet" and "Web" do not appear in the document at all. The role of computers and telecommunications are discussed only as an infrastructure to be protected from Cyber Warfare, not as a primarily tool for defence planning and operations. A Cyber Security Operations Centre is proposed to be staffed by ADF and DSTO personnel. It will not be possible for the ADF to maintain the needed level of expertise without civilian assistance of organisations such as AusCert. Without outside assistance the ADF will be vulnerable to cyber attack.

The Department of Defence needs to plan to use ICT to improve both its administrative and military operations. This will require giving up the idea that expertise lies within the department and that there is a unique military approach which only defence personnel can provide. One way the proposed $20B savings can be obtained is by making the operations of the department and the ADF more efficient by increased effective use of ICT.

My experience of nine years in Defence ICT was that while the organisation wanted the benefits of ICT, it was not willing to change the way it operated so as to make the ICT effective. The result was that system projects failed or did not achieve the planed results when implemented, because old ways of working were continued with the new systems.

Excerpts from Defence 2009 White Paper 2009
9.3 For the reasons spelled out in Chapter 8, the Government has decided to acquire 12 new Future Submarines, to be assembled in South Australia. This will be a major design and construction program spanning three decades, and will be Australia's largest ever single defence project. The Future Submarine will have greater range, longer endurance on patrol, and expanded capabilities compared to the current Collins class submarine. It will also be equipped with very secure real-time communications and be able to carry different mission payloads such as uninhabited underwater vehicles.
9.4 The Future Submarine will be capable of a range of tasks such as anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare; strategic strike; mine detection and mine-laying operations; intelligence collection; supporting special forces (including infiltration and exfiltration missions); and gathering battlespace data in support of operations.
9.5 Long transits and potentially short-notice contingencies in our primary operational environment demand high levels of mobility and endurance in the Future Submarine. The boats need to be able to undertake prolonged covert patrols over the full distance of our strategic approaches and in operational areas. They require low signatures across all spectrums, including at higher speeds. The Government has ruled out nuclear propulsion for these submarines.
9.6 The complex task of capability definition, design and construction must be undertaken without delay, given the long lead times and technical challenges involved. The Government has already directed that a dedicated project office be established for the Future Submarine within Defence, and will closely oversee this project. ...

Air Combat Capability
9.57 On coming to office, the Government commissioned the Air Combat Capability Review to provide advice on aspects of Australia's air combat requirements. That study and its findings were incorporated into the Force Structure Review.
9.58 The Air Combat Capability Review assessed that the squadron of F/A-18F Super Hornets being acquired as a bridging air combat capability is a highly capable 4.5 generation aircraft and, as long as it retains commonality with the planned US Navy development path, will remain effective until at least 2020. The F/A-18F Super Hornet will begin to enter service from the end of 2010.
9.59 The Review concluded that a fleet of around 100 fifth generation multirole combat aircraft would provide Australia with an effective and flexible air combat capability to 2030. A further judgement of the review was that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the preferred solution for that requirement. Other fourth and fifth generation combat aircraft considered by the Review were judged to be less capable of fulfilling Australia's multirole air combat capability requirements.
9.60 The Government has decided that it will acquire around 100 F-35 JSF, along with supporting systems and weapons. The first stage of this acquisition will acquire three operational squadrons comprising
78 Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030
Defence White Paper 2009
not fewer than 72 aircraft. The acquisition of the remaining aircraft will be acquired in conjunction with the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet fleet, and will be timed to ensure that no gap in our overall air combat capability occurs.
9.61 Australia's future air combat capability will therefore be based on four operational air combat squadrons consisting initially of three JSF squadrons and a squadron of Super Hornet aircraft, which will be replaced by a fourth JSF squadron. Defence will continue to progressively upgrade the systems and airframes of the current F/A-18 aircraft to ensure that they remain capable and sustainable until the JSF enters service with the ADF.
9.62 Maritime strike capability will be provided by the Hornet and Super Hornet fleets using Harpoon missiles, with the Government to acquire a new maritime strike weapon for the JSF. New air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons will also be acquired.
9.63 There has been considerable public interest in the potential acquisition of the JSF. The Government has examined its capabilities very carefully in the context of the Air Combat Capability Review, and remains confident that the JSF's combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated into the networked ADF, will ensure Australia maintains its strategic capability advantage out to 2030.
9.64 The Government has decided that it would be prudent for the ADF to acquire an airborne electronic attack capability. To that end, it has decided that the production arrangements for the second batch of 12 Australian F/A-18F Super Hornets will include wiring those aircraft to enable them, should later strategic circumstances dictate,to be converted to the electronic warfare 'Growler' variant - the EA-18G. Should we acquire this capability, it would provide a potent ability to protect our own communications and electronic systems while jamming, suppressing or otherwise denying an adversary the full use of the electromagnetic spectrum in the area of operations. ...

Maritime Surveillance and Response
9.69 To meet this challenge, the Government will acquire eight new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the current AP-3C Orion fleet. These new aircraft will provide a highly advanced surface search radar and optical, infra-red and electronic surveillance systems. With these systems, along with a high transit speed and the ability to conduct air-to-air refuelling, these aircraft will provide a superior capability for rapid area search and identification tasks. They will also provide a highly advanced ASW capability, including an ability to engage submarines using air-launched torpedoes. After subsequent upgrades, they will be capable of firing stand-off anti-ship missiles.
9.70 We will also acquire up to seven large high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs to supplement the manned maritime patrol aircraft. These large UAVs, with an ocean-spanning range, will markedly expand the surveillance coverage of the maritime approaches to Australia, in both area and duration. They will also have a significant overland capability to provide support to our ground forces in a range of circumstances. Strategic UAVs provide persistent ISR, enhancing our situational awareness in both the land and maritime domains. ...

Cyber Warfare
9.85 In the past decade the growing importance of operations in cyberspace has become more apparent. Our national security could potentially be compromised by cyberattacks on our defence, wider governmental, commercial or infrastructure-related information networks. The potential impacts of such attacks have grown with Defence's increasing reliance on networked operations. Therefore, we must focus on developing capabilities that allow us to gain an edge in the cyberspace domain, and protect ourselves.
9.86 This emerging threat will require significant and sustained investment by Defence in new technology and analytical capability to guard the integrity of its own information and ensure the successful conduct of operations.
9.87 The Government has decided to invest in a major enhancement of Defence's cyber warfare capability. A comprehensive range of expanded and new capabilities will maximise Australia's strategic capacity and reach in this field. Many of these capabilities remain highly classified, but in outline they consist of a much-enhanced cyber situational awareness and incident response capability, and the establishment of a Cyber Security Operations Centre to coordinate responses to incidents in cyberspace.
9.88 The Cyber Security Operations Centre will include a continuously staffed watch office and an analysis team to respond to cyberthreats in a timely fashion. Its staff will include ADF and DSTO personnel. This new Centre will be created within the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), which already possesses significant cybersecurity expertise.
9.89 While this capability will reside within Defence and be available to provide cyber warfare support to ADF operations, it will be purpose-designed to serve broader national security goals. This includes assisting responses to cyber incidents across government and critical private sector systems and infrastructure. Whole-of-government coordination will be achieved through the appropriate representation within the Centre from relevant Government agencies. Those agencies include the Attorney-General's Department, which has the lead on e-security programs for Government and the private sector, as well as the Australian Federal Police and relevant agencies of the Australian intelligence community.

From: "Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030", Australian Department of Defence, ISBN: 978-0-642-29702-0, 2 May 2009.
In addition to the white paper itself there are available Media Releases
the previous Defence Response to the Mortimer Review and outlines of parts of the white paper proposals:
  1. The 2009 Defence White Paper – The Most Comprehensive White Paper of the Modern Era [18.3 KB]
  2. The Australian – United States Alliance [17.3 KB]
  3. Australia’s Commitment to the United Nations and Multilateral Engagement [18.1 KB]
  4. Cooperation with South East Asia and Pacific Nations [16.6 KB]
  5. A Globally Flexible Force [25.9 KB]
  6. A New Strategic Environment [25.5 KB]
  7. A Smarter Defence for a More Complex World [26.7 KB]
  8. What the White Paper Means for the Royal Australian Navy [28.1 KB]
  9. What the White Paper Means for the Australian Army [28.3 KB]
  10. What the White Paper Means for the Royal Australian Air Force [27.8 KB]
  11. White Paper Development Process – The Most Comprehensive Yet [17.8 KB]
  12. A New Defence White Paper Every Five Years [17.1 KB]
  13. The Largest Ever Defence Reform Program [16.7 KB]
  14. Remediating Shortfalls and Underinvestment in the Defence Budget [18.1 KB]
  15. A More Potent and Capable Submarine Fleet [18.1 KB]
  16. Navy to Receive Larger and More Capable Anti-Submarine Warfare Frigates [17.3 KB]
  17. A New Era For Navy’s Fleet Air Arm [17.5 KB]
  18. Planning Underway For New Offshore Combatant Vessels [17.8 KB]
  19. Greater Strategic Sealift For Amphibious Operations [17.7 KB]
  20. New Class Of Heavy Landing Craft For Navy [16.2 KB]
  21. Navy To Acquire A New Underway Replenishment Vessel [14.5 KB]
  22. A Balanced And Flexible Army [17.1 KB]
  23. Enhanced Survivability And Mobility Of Land Forces [16.6 KB]
  24. A Networked Army On The Battlefield [17.1 KB]
  25. Modernisation For Australia’s Dismounted Soldiers [16.4 KB]
  26. Delivering A More Potent Helicopter Fleet For The Army [16.6 KB]
  27. New Artillery Systems For The Army [16.6 KB]
  28. New Fire Support Weapons System For The Australian Army [15.3 KB]
  29. Protecting Australia’s Land Forces [16.5 KB]
  30. More Language Training For Defence Operating In The Global Village [15.1 KB]
  31. UAV Technology To Play A Large Role In The Future ADF [15.3 KB]
  32. New Focus On Non-Lethal Weapon Technology For ADF [16.2 KB]
  33. Equipping Our Special Forces For The Future [15.2 KB]
  34. Government To Enhance The Incident Response Regiment [15.3 KB]
  35. Next Generation Of Air Combat Capability For Air Force [18.2 KB]
  36. Enhanced Capability for Super Hornets [16.8 KB]
  37. Recognised Air Picture Of Australia’s Primary Operational Environment To Be Developed [16.9 KB]
  38. Improved Air Traffic Control, Navigation And Communication Systems [16.5 KB]
  39. New KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport Aircraft Soon To Enter Service [16.8 KB]
  40. Air Force All Set For Advanced Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft [15.4 KB]
  41. Air Force To Acquire Advanced New Maritime Patrol Aircraft [16.9 KB]
  42. A New Era Of Uninhabited Aircraft Operations For Air Force [16.8 KB]
  43. New Airlift Capabilities For Air Force [17.5 KB]
  44. Navy To Be Equipped With Land Attack Cruise Missiles [16.4 KB]
  45. Government Commits To Better Integration Between Reserve And Regular Service in The Australian Defence Force [22.8 KB]
  46. Government to Enhance The High Readiness Reserves [17.1 KB]
  47. An Enhanced Intelligence Surveillance And Reconnaissance Capability [23.0 KB]
  48. Government To Acquire Satellite With Remote Sensing Capability [19.4 KB]
  49. Government To Integrate The Defence Intelligence Information Systems [19.8 KB]
  50. Enhanced UHF Satellite Communications For Deployed Forces [17.4 KB]
  51. New Cyber Security Operations Centre To Enhance Cyber Warfare Capability [18.0 KB]
  52. Enhanced Electronic Warfare Capability For Defence [22.1 KB]
  53. Joint Command Support System To Be Enhanced [20.3 KB]
  54. Government To Build A Networked ADF [22.3 KB]
  55. Government To Enhance ADF Counter-Weapons Of Mass Destruction Capabilities [20.0 KB]
  56. Government To Improve The Management Of Defence Force Preparedness [20.2 KB]
  57. Government To Reconstitute Explosive Ordnance Warstocks [17.2 KB]
  58. Substantial Boost to Simulator Training For Defence [16.7 KB]
  59. Government Agrees To An Output Focused Business Model For Defence [19.6 KB]
  60. A New Independent Advisory Board To Oversee Defence Reforms [21.9 KB]
  61. Changes To The Defence Funding Model [24.9 KB]
  62. Multi-Million Dollar Investment To Reform Defence ICT [17.5 KB]
  63. Government Reform To Defence Shared Services And Procurement Support Services [16.9 KB]
  64. DSTO Laboratories For The Future [17.4 KB]
  65. Investing In The Defence Force Of The Future [18.5 KB]
  66. Government To Improve Housing For Defence Personnel And Their Families [16.8 KB]
  67. Defence Families To Receive Improved Support [15.0 KB]
  68. Government Announces Additional Investment In Australian Defence Force Health Care [18.1 KB]
  69. Increasing Diversity In Defence [25.9 KB]
  70. Reforming The Defence Workforce [17.5 KB]
  71. Fixing Navy’s Critical Workforce Shortfall [17.6 KB]
  72. Government To Invest In Aging Defence Infrastructure And Upgrading Old Accommodation [17.3 KB]
  73. Improved Planning For The Future Defence Estate [23.0 KB]
  74. Updating Defence Ranges For The Forces Of Tomorrow [15.2 KB]
  75. Government To Replace And Consolidate Outdated Logistics Infrastructure [16.8 KB]
  76. Government To Enhance Logistics Infrastructure In Townsville [14.8 KB]
  77. Government To Enhance Logistics Infrastructure In Darwin [16.7 KB]
  78. Government To Enhance Operational Logistics Support Infrastructure In Western Australia [15.0 KB]
  79. Government To Invest In Improved Logistics Planning And Management [15.0 KB]
  80. Government To Deliver Billions In Savings [16.6 KB]
  81. The Government’s Response To The Mortimer Review [25.3 KB]
  82. Government To Support Defence Priority Industry Capabilities [17.6 KB]
  83. The Defence White Paper Delivers For Local Industry [17.3 KB]

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Australian electronic warfare aircraft

Boeing EA-18G GrowlerOn 11 September 2008 I suggested a relatively quick and easy purchase for Australian defence would be dozen EA-18G Growler aircraft. The Australian government has decided to do this, having 12 of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, which have already been ordered, wired for electronic attack. .This can be done for the relatively modest cost of A$35M, as the cable can be installed while the aircraft are being made.

There are some difficult decisions for the ADF to make. All that has been ordered is the cabling in the aircraft, not the extra sensors and transmitters to plug into the cable. The full offensive electronic warfare suite for the F18s would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The US is unlikely to provide the source codes for the EW software, so that Australia would be dependent on the USA for maintenance, upgrades and local requirements. There would be US imposed restrictions on what Australia could do with the aircraft and the relatively high cost of purchase, training and minenance.

Boeing is considering a export version of the F/A-18G. This would have the cabling and sensors to detect electronic emissions, but not transmitters for jamming. This would allow the aircraft to be sold with fewer export restrictions and be cheaper to buy an maintain. Australian might well choose a middle path, having some aircraft equipped with the full offensive capability and some with just sensors. It might also be worthwile plugging locally developed sensors and transmitters into the pre-installed cabling to customise the aircraft for local conditions.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Australia should buy for Defence

In a speech to the RSL, the Prime Minister has indicated Australia would increase Defence spending in response to developments in the Asian region. However, defence systems take decades to acquire and Australia has had failures with such projects. But there are some quick and relatively easy, but not cheap, purchases which can be made : electronic warfare aircraft, landing helicopter dock and fast transport ships.

EA-18G Growler Electronic warfare aircraft

Boeing EA-18G GrowlerOne quick and relatively easy purchase for Australia would be a dozen of the EA-18G Growler aircraft. This is the electronic warfare version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, already ordered by Australia. These could be purchased off the shelf and would make the already ordered Super Hornets more effective. However, the Growler is not perfect: when equipped with its electronic warfare pods, it is slower that the standard F/A-18F. Also Australia would be dependent on the USA for maintenance of the complex electronic systems on board. Later versions of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter are likely to incorporate many of the features of the Growler without a performance penalty, but the aircraft may not be available for decades, if ever.

Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock ships.

Landing Helicopter Dock ship, Copyright Navantia, 10 August 2005Australia could also order one or two more Canberra class "Landing Helicopter Dock" (LHD) ships. These are aircraft carriers, in all but name, and would be useful for longer range operations. There is no fixed wing aircraft in production suitable for the LHD ships, but they could use various rotary wing manned and UAV aircraft. The could also use the the F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 when (if) it is available.

Hobart class of destroyers

Australia should add at least one, and perhaps more, to the existing order for three Hobart class destroyers. These are coming from the same company building the LHDs and are to a proven design in use by the Spanish Navy, making a reasonably low risk for such a high technology platform. Extra ships would lower the per unit cost of the program and make training and logistics much easier than buying something different.

Australian made Joint High Speed Vessels

HSV-2 Swift United States Navy High Speed VesselA complement to the Canberra class LHDs would be the production of a class of ships referred by the US DoD as Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV). Australian shipbuilders Incat and Austal are the world leaders in the design and building of JHSVs for the US DoD, but have been largely ignored by the Australian military.

In "Widen the Lens for JHSV" (Proceedings of the U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE, June 2008 Vol. 134/6/1,264), Commander Robert K. Morrison III and Lieutenant Commander Phillip E. Pournelle (U.S. Navy) suggests widening the role for JHSVs. For the cost of one Canberra class ship, the Australian Defence Force could have a fleet of low cost high speed multi-purpose ships. The JHSVs are ideal as helicopter platforms, due to their large deck area. Apart from the lower purchase cost, these would require a far smaller crew, reducing operating costs and recruitment issues. They could also be used for resupplying other ships and submarines, increasing their effectiveness.

Automation to Reduce Recruitment Issues

One aspect of the adapted civilian design of the high speed transport ships is their level of automation. Given the current difficulty in finding enough defence volunteers, Australia could invest in the automation of its existing and new weapons systems.

It is likely that Australia will want to build more of a replacement for the Collins class submarine. Apart from the technical complexity and risk of the project, there is the problem of how to find the crew to operate them. One way is to increase the automation so fewer people would be needed. Also it is likely they will be equipped with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) to extend their range (miniature robot submarines, about the size and shape of a torpedo).

... the task of an effective national security policy is to maximise the opportunities and minimise the risks.

Driving much of the change in our region will be the rise of China.

China will be the most dynamic major economy in the first half of this century - followed by India.

According to some estimates, by 2020 China will replace the United States as the world’s largest economy.

China’s economic growth will change the way it sees its own role in the world.

And it will change the way others see China – the Olympics are a great example of that.

Over the long term it is clear that China will have more political influence in our region.

Our other major Asian trading partner, Japan, will remain a major world economy even if it is not recording the growth rates of China.

An ageing population will have a major impact on Japan by 2050, with more than one-third of its population over 65.

But given its stature in the region and its continuing strength, Japan remains a major global and regional power.

The United States is likely to remain the world’s only superpower through to the mid-century.

Over the coming decades, the United States may see its position decline relative to other economies, but it will remain a major economic influence and a powerful source of ideas, innovation and technology in the global economy.

You only have to look at the US’s unmatched capacity for transforming new ideas into new technology.

The United States accounts for around one-third of all world patents.

By contrast, Australia accounted for 1.6 per cent and China 1.8 per cent in 2004.

The United States has shown time and time again that it can rise to any challenge and constantly evolve.

So nobody should ever underestimate the ability of the US to maintain its global leadership role.

The United States will also remain strategically dominant given the vast array of military capabilities available to future US administrations.

The Asia-Pacific region will become more prosperous and its population will continue to grow.

Militarily, however, as it has already become economically and politically, the Asia-Pacific will become a much more contested region.

The region’s total population will exceed four billion by 2020, or 56 per cent of the world’s total.

Australia’s population will only experience modest growth, growing to around 35 million by 2050.

But China’s population is expected to peak at around 1.5 billion in 2030.

India will near the 1.8 billion mark by mid-century.

Indonesia’s population could be as high as 350 million.

The demographic changes in our region will mean that by 2020 when we look to our north, we will see a very different region to the one we see now – one where population, food, water and energy resource pressures will be great.

We have to add one more element to this mix when we are looking at the future, and that is the existing military and political fault lines. ...

From: Address to the RSL National Congress, Kevin Rudd,
Prime Minister of Australia, 9 September 2008

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Monday, January 28, 2008

UAVs for Australian Whale Surveillance

The University of Queensland is using Aerocam Australia's 3 m long Shadow UAV for counting whales in the waters off Queensland. The Australian made Aerosonde UAVs have previously been flow across the Atlantic, in the Arctic and for Australian military surveillance. Aerosonde has been acquired by AAI who also make the shadow. So perhaps their aircraft could be used for dual purposes: to track the Japanese whaling fleet and the whales in Antarctic waters. This would allow a much larger area to be covered and with less risk to human life and at a lower cost.

Australia only has one antarctic equipped Airbus A319 aircraft, which therefor can only track one whaling vessel at a time. The aircraft crew cannot expect to survive a crash in antarctic waters. A fleet of UAVs could track all the vessels continually, recording video suitable for presentation in court. Loss of an aircraft would be a small financial cost and no loss of life. Also UAVs are much cheaper to operate. One crew on the groups would be able to fly all the aircraft at once.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Web to reduce UAV bandwidth use

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or robot planes, are used for remote surveillance, but use up a lot of bandwidth sending back images. The US military is providing millions of dollars in research on how to reduce the bandwidth needed, but seems to hav missed the obvious: use web technology.

Reports such as "$10M to Utah State to Help Ease ISR Bandwidth Crunch" (11-Sep-2007 14:45 Watershed Publishing LLC), indicate that networking and image processing will be exploited to reduce bandwidth:

Utah State University Research Foundation, North Logan, Utah, is being awarded $10M for cost-plus-fixed-fee completion task order #0007 under previously awarded contract (N00173-02-D-2003) for research in the area of Time Critical Sensor Image/Data Processing. Specifically, they will research advanced . ... massive bandwidth crunch being created by hundreds of video-equipped UAVs and networked airborne ISR systems sending video back to base. ... The Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, DC issued the contract.

However, a better way to reduce data transmission is not to send the data in the first place. The typical UAV is really just a remote control airplane, like a larger version of a hobby plane. With a little more intelligence the camera can just transmit when there is something interesting to see and at a resolution the user requires. The images can be zoomed in on to provide a high resolution view of a small area. Progressive scanning schemes can be sued to give a low resolution preview and then add detail of the area of interest. The aircraft can store the data for later replay. These are all capabilities available in web image formats and with off the shelf open source web server technologies, rather than something needing millions of dollars in research.

A hand launched UAV could use a small off the shelf computer such as the business card size Via Mobile-ITX which is intended for use in a smartphone.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Optionally piloted UAVs

In a talk at the Australian Defence Force Academy last year, I mentioned that one option being looked at for future military aircraft was optionally manned (or piloted) or flow with no one on board as a UAVs.

These are civilian or military aircraft modified to be flow without a pilot. This can be useful where sometimes a crew is needed, to fly the aircraft where UAVs are not permitted or where people are needed to do things a computer can't.

At present these are mostly proposals, not real systems. The German built Diamond DA42 civilian twin engine light aircraft, adapted for surveillance., is offered as an "Optional Piloted Surveillance and Reconnaissance System". Further in the future Lockheed Martin has proposed a pilotless F-35 fighter.

Recently Boeing has proposed an optionally manned Gulfstream G550 business jet for the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) project. On a smaller scale, the current crop of very light jets (VLJ), would seem suitable. These have advanced electronic avionics which are adaptable to remote control, carbon fiber construction which can be modified for sensors and are intended to be produced in large numbers at low cost (starting at $1M). Most have two engines, but units such as the Eclipse ECJ have a single engine.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flight Plan for Unmanned Aerial Systems for NATO

Photo of an Australian Aerosonde UAV on JAPCC UAS PageNATO released "The Joint Air Power Competence Centre Flight Plan for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO" (version 5.4, 15 March 2007).

The plan is provided as a 71 page PDF file:

1. Introduction
2. Current and Projected Capabilities
3. What is Needed to Fill the Gaps
4. Problems and Recommendations
Annex A: References
Annex B: Unmanned Aircraft in NATO (Operational)
Annex C: NATO Air Command and Control Systems
Annex D: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Missions
  • Combat Missions
  • C4ISTAR Missions
  • Combat Support Missions
  • Combat Services Support and Civil Missions
Annex E: Acronyms
Annex F: Considerations regarding NATO procurement of its own UAS versus Individual Nations contributing UAS as they are willing and able

From: Flight Plan for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO, Version 5.4, JAPCC, 15 March 2007
The Flight Plan uses the term "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" (UAS), in place of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This is done to emphasize that the vehicle is only part of an overall system. But introducing a new term is likely to cause confusion.

About half the document is taken up with a catalog of UAVs currently in NATO service. While a useful compendium, it would have been better as a separate document.

There is also a slide show presentation by Oberstlt Jens C. Fehler, from JAPCC, about the plan available online (some slides are marked: "©Univ.-Prof. Dr. habil. Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl Department of Innovation and Technology Management). The overview covers issues such as: Force Development, Concepts of Operations, Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, Structures, Standards. One issue raised is if the way NATO manages Airborne Early Warning and Control (NAEW&C) will be used as a model for UAS, or will it be left up to each nation. Can what NATO’s does become a commonly accepted standard. Flight Plans remain an issue although a working group was formed to look at it five years ago.

The overview suggests what is needed is to review the use of UAS in NATO, find deficiencies in capability. The aim is one coherent strategy for UAS and situation awareness. The US experience with UAS was used as the model. Issues include: Maintenance, Operators, Training, Payload, Groundstations, Command andControl (C2), Air Traffic Management, Mission Planning/Tasking.

The plan does not appear to address automation of UAS tasks, which would seem an obvious way to address many of the issues. It all NATO does is to take a large number of uncoordinated personnel intensive systems and produce a coordinated even more personnel intensive system, that will not be much of an improvement.

Interestingly JAPCC use a photo of an Australian Aerosonde UAV to illustrate their UAS Page.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Spanish hitech ships for Australian Navy

Tenix/Navantia won the contract for three Air Warfare Destroyers and two two Landing Helicopter Dock" (LHD) ships for the Australian Navy. The Cabinet decision will be announced today.
Spanish warship Alvaro de Bazan (F101) is on a sales visit to Australia
The Spanish designed destroyers will be equipped with the Aegis combat system. It is smaller than US ships with this equipment. The Australian ships will use the locally developed radar antenna designed by CEA Technologies in Canberra.

Tenix-Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Cross Section Diagram

The Landing Helicopter Dock Ships are planned to carry 1000 personnel, six helicopters and 150 vehicles, including the M1A1 Abrams tank. These will replace both HMAS Manoora and HMAS Kanimbla. There will also be new landing craft and communications for the ships. The ships are designed to be small aircraft carriers with a "ski jump" on the flight deck for the AV-8B Harrier II, and may be able to operate the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Australia has announced no plans for fixed wing aircraft on the ship, but UAVs could be operated.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Automated UAV Operations from Ships

Tenix-Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Cross Section DiagramAustralia is planning to purchase two "Landing Helicopter Dock" (LHD) ships for its Amphibious Ships Project. These looks like small aircraft carriers, but are intended to operate helicopters, not fixed wing aircraft. However, they would be able to operate some types of small UAVs (Robot Aircraft). The mix of UAVs and helicopters could be made safe and efficient with automation.

In his April talk in Canberra, Systems Safety Engineering expert,
Dr Mark Nicholson, mentioned the safety analysis needed to allow to fly in the same airspace with piloted aircraft. This problem is particularly acute for military ship borne operations, due to the limited space and high tempo of military operations.

The traditional method of achieving separation of parked, landing and departing aircraft on an aircraft carrier is to use an angled flight deck . Neither of the ships on the Australian short list has an angled flight deck, but a small Virtual Angled Deck (VAD) could be created for UAVs. The VAD would be a painted area on the fore deck of the ship. Helicopters, personnel and equipment would be prohibited from this area during UAV operations.

UAVs would approach the ship from one side to land and take off over the other side on the VAD. Aircraft could "go around" after a missed landing. A malfunction during landing or takeoff would result in the aircraft going over the side of the ship into the sea, clear of equipment and personnel. One of the ship designs, the Navantia LHD has a ski-jump ramp area which could be used for the VAD. The ski jump would assist with shorter takeoff and landing, as well as making use of an area of the deck not suited to other purposes.

Very small UAVs could use a conventional rolling takeoff and landing from the VAD, without the use of catapults or arrestor wires. Larger suitably equipped UAVs could us a Shipboard Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) and takeoff. This would allow much larger UAVs with higher payloads, than could otherwise be used. Apart from painting the deck, no other modifications to the ship would be required.

Even with a separate deck area, UAVs could impede other ship operations and be a risk to the crew. To minimize this, the UAVs could be set up for remote deck operations. The UAVs would be serviced below decks in a hangar and then transported by a robot tractor to the deck and launched without any crew present. The tractor would recover landed aircraft from the deck and return them to the hangar. The tractor would also be equipped with firefighting equipment and a bull bar to be able to push crashed aircraft over the side of the ship in an emergency.

This would reduce the risk of injuries to crew and increase the efficiency of operations. Aircraft could be launched and recovered far faster than with a conventional aircraft carrier. Only two crew would be needed on duty to maintain continuous flight operations.

Bell Eagle Eye, Model 918, is a tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicleThe smaller UAVs already in service and planned for the ADF could be used for shipboard operation. However, VSTOL units would be particularly suitable. Like their larger counterparts, UAV helicopters suffer from speed and payload penalties. One option is to use a tiltrotor design, with the craft able to take off and land vertically, then travel as a conventional aircraft. The Bell Eagle Eye, Model 918 tilt rotor uses this approach. However, like the Bell-Boeing V-22 it requires complex mechanical couplings between the engine and the tilting rotors.

MW54 miniature turboprop engine from Wren Turbines Ltd
An alternative would be to use one engine for each rotor, with electrical coupling. An engine would be mounted at the wing tip directly connected to one rotor. A lightweight electrical motor/generator would be integrated with the rotor, similar to the design of the Serafina Miniature Robot Submarine.

Serafina Mark-II Robot SubmarineThe speed, or lift of the craft would be controlled by throttling the engines. The balance of the craft would be controlled electrically, by generating electrical power at one wing tip and transferring it to the electric motor at others. The aircraft would be able to fly and land conventionally with two engines stopped.

As an example four 6 kw MW54 miniature turboprop engines from Wren Turbines Ltd, plus four .5 kw electric motor/generators would weigh approximately 12 kg and produce 26 kw. The UAV could have a launch weight of 80 kilograms and have a speed of 300 kph and a length of 3m. Endurance of 8 hours and range of 2,000 kilometers.

On a runway the aircraft would take off conventionally, with the rotors in the horizontal position, allowing an increased payload. Neither the Eagle Eye nor Osprey can take off or land vertically, due to the diameter of the rotors. Vertical takeoff and landing would use the rotors in the vertical position, with a reduced payload.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Safe Robot Aircraft for Australian Aircraft Carrier?

Mark NicholsonDr Mark Nicholson from University of York was recently in Australia to teach Systems Safety Engineering. I bumped into him at the coffee shop and the next day he gave a presentation at the ACS Software Sig.

One interesting application Mark mentioned was safety analysis needed to allow UAVs (Robot Aircraft) to fly in the same airspace with piloted aircraft. The rules which are used to assess if an aircraft is safe to fly assume there is a pilot in it. So changes need to be made for when the pilot is actually sitting on the ground, flying the aircraft by remote control and, at least part of the time, a computer program is flying the aircraft.

Having a computer fly a plane might sound risky, but Mark pointed out that most modern aircraft are being flown by a computer most of the time now. Modern airliners, such as those from Airbus are controlled by a computer, with the pilots controls actually input devices to the computer, much like a computer game. Most of the time the computer is flying the aircraft with the pilot monitoring the systems.

Mark pointed out an even more demanding application is where military UAVs and piloted aircraft are taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier at sea. The relatively orderly process of air traffic control used at a civilian airport doesn't apply.

Tenix-Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Cross Section DiagramAustralia may be in need of Mark's skills for the Amphibious Ships Project. Defence plans to buy two large "Landing Helicopter Dock" ships to carry helicopters and landing craft. These will be large enough to also operate UAVs and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. But stopping the helicopters, fighters and robot aircraft from running into each other will need some carefully designed software.

Bell Eagle Eye, Model 918, is a tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicleEven a relatively small UAV, such as the Bell Eagle Eye, Model 918 tiltrotor would pose a considerable risk to other aircraft operating from the ship. Armed UAVs would pose a further risk.

ps: The Landing Helicopter Dock ships are likely to be a Spanish design from the company "Navantia". The decision is years away, but recently the Defense Department is reported to have decided on Navantia's F100 destroyer. Having bought one ship from Navantia, it makes sense to buy another from the same company.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Australian Minature UAV

Silvertone Flamingo UAVSilvertone Electronics have produced the Flamingo UAV. This is essentially an updated model plane, made of carbon fiber and designed for commercial use.


Tatical UAV for Australian Army in 2009

I-View unmanned aerial vehicle making a precision parafoil landingThe Australian Army will take delivery of Tactical UAVS in 2009:

The Defence Materiel Organisation has signed contracts with Boeing Australia Limited for the delivery and support of a Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) capability for the Army.

Boeing Australia, teamed with Israel Aircraft Industries, will provide the I-View UAV system. I-View has a wingspan of 6.7 metres and has a fully automatic take-off and landing system that dramatically increases operational reliability. Its catapult launcher and unique parafoil landing concept enable it to be deployed and recovered from an uneven area smaller than a football field. ...

The Army’s TUAVs will be operated by 132 Battery, of the 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment, which is based at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera. The introduction of the TUAVs in the Brisbane area is anticipated to create over 125 jobs in the region. ...

From: Contract Signature For Acquisition Of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles For Army, Defence Media Release, 14/12/2006, CPA 369/06

video of Tactical UAV testingThe I-View uses a catapult to take off and a parachute to land. It has a 6.7m wingspan, weighs 165 kg, carries up to 30kg of sensors and can fly for eight hours at around 85 knots, powered by a piston propeller engine.

What is more interesting is that according to Asia-Pacific Reporter, the Amy will be able to receive images direct from the i-view in the field. However, from the photos available, the on consoles seem to need a truck to transport them. These are not the pocket size PDA devices I was suggesting.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Small Stealth UAV?

Proposed Small Stealth UAVAn alternative to piloted F-35 stealth aircraft for Australia might be small UAVs. These would cost around $2M each, allowing forty to be purchased for the cost of one F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter or F/A18F. The UAVs would use engines and weapons from the Australian military inventory and off the self electronics.

Scarab UAV Cross SectionThe US built Ryan Model 324 Scarab/BQM-145A UAV is used by the Egyptian Air Force for reconance. The Scarab is launched from a truck mounted rail with rocket assistance, and recovered by parachute. The Scarab is essentially a reusable unarmed cruse missile. In contrast the EADS Barracuda UAV is a larger conventional wheeled aircraft, allowing it to take off from a runway and with provision for weapons to be carried.

The turbojet engine of the Scarab is similar to that of the Harpoon cruse missile currently in service with the RAAF. The Teledyne J402 turbojet gives the missile a high subsonic speed and good fuel economy. The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) planned for introduction to the RAAF has a similar engine. The AGM-158A has inertial navigation, GPS, an imaging infrared seeker and data link making it, in effect a disposable armed UAV. However, the cost of JASSM is high, as it can only be used once.

The small turbojet engine design of the Scarab could be combined with the wheels and weapons of the Barracuda to produce a small armed UAV which could operate from a conventional runway. Such an aircraft might be 4 m long, with a 2m wingspan, weigh 1,000 kg, with a speed of 800kph and range of 2,000 km. Typical armament would be one AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missile or two FIM-92A Stinger air to air missiles (as used on Australian Tiger Helicopters).

The aircraft would be transportable in an NH90 Helicopter or a standard shipping container. To lower the cost, Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) computers could be used. The aircraft could be equipped with an airborne web server and controlled via a web browser. Automotive components, such as the Controller Area Network (CAN) could be used to further lower cost.

The aircraft would be a limited Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), unlike systemns such as the Boeing Joint Unmanned Combat Air System X-45. The X-45 is much larger with a 10.31m wingspan comparable with a small piloted aircraft. However, at a much lower cost a small UAV would be useful for limited surveillance and attack. It would cause an adversary considerable difficulties, as they would not easily detected.

The small UAV would be useful for attacking small low value targets such as vehicles and small ships, including improvised fighting vehicles ("technicals") and vessels ("boghammars"). Due to its limited armament, the UAV would be less likely to cause concern to Australia's neighbors than full size stealth aircraft and long range cruse missiles.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Adelaide, set the building of a miniature radio controlled F-35 VTOL model aircraft as a project in 2004. A conventional larger model would be much less difficult a task. The development of at least an unarmed UAV would be within the capabilities of Australian university researchers.

The US has had difficulties building such Medium Range UAVs, with one program being cancelled in 1993. However, the technology has advanced since then, with carbon fibre being used for UAVs, such as the Australian Aerosonde and COTS computers and low cost commercial avionics being available.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Miniature Common Data Link for UAVs

How do you fit a standard digital surveillance system into what is essentially a model airplane?
Air Force Research Laboratory, Sensors Directorate (AFRL/PKSE) solicits research proposals to ... implement an airborne Common Data Link (CDL) terminal for use in Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS). Due to the payload restrictions of these systems, using present CDL equipment is prohibitive, and has contributed to the proliferation of platform specific data link systems.

This effort shall examine the size, weight, and power requirements for SUAS platforms, and develop a CDL terminal capable of providing these platforms with CDL capability, with the intent of reducing the need for further unique systems. In addition, the Mini-CDL terminal shall be capable of communicating with existing ground systems which employ CDL terminals. ...

From: Miniature Common Data Link (Mini-CDL), Air Force Research Laboratory, Sensors Directorate8/18/2006

... the Mini-CDL should be capable of being fitted to, and carried by, UAVs in the 4-90kg (9-88lb) maximum take-off weight range ...

The Mini-CDL concept follows on from revised guidance released by the Pentagon last December, which mandated CDL standards be used for all airborne sensor imagery transmissions to enable improved system interoperability. Existing CDL architecture products are unable to be used on small UAV systems because of weight and space restrictions, giving rise to a significant number of platform-unique datalinks. In turn, this has affected frequency availability in battlefield environments.

SOURCE: --Peter La Franchi--
From: USAF AFRL launches mini common datalink project for small UAVs, Submitted by nestorb on Fri, 2006-08-25 13:35.

Common Data Link (CDL) The US DoD designated the Common Data Link (CDL) as its standard for use in imagery and signals intelligence in 1991. This link consists of a secure, jam resistant uplink operating at 200kbps and a down link that can operate at 10.71 Mbps, 137 Mbps or 234 Mbps (currently only the first of these downlink rates is secure).

There are five classes of link in the CDL family to achieve both line-of-sight (LOS) and, using relay, beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS):

From: Tactical Data Links - Common Data Link (CDL) Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) High Integrity Data Link (HIDL), Stasys

Some Books:

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