Boeing claims SIGINT prize with US Army contract

Flight Global – By Stephen Trimble

Boeing has won a US Army contract to deliver a new fleet of signals intelligence aircraft called the enhanced medium altitude reconnaissance and surveillance system (EMARSS).

The army’s communications electronic command (CECOM) awarded Boeing an $88 million contract on 30 November to launch the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase.

Boeing officials were not immediately available to comment on the EMARSS victory, but details about the contract have been disclosed by competitors.

Last month, L-3 Communications chief executive Michael Strianese described EMARSS to Wall Street analysts as a $1.5 billion programme for at least 30 aircraft. The EMD phase includes orders for six aircraft, plus options for six more aircraft in low rate initial production, Strianese said.

Boeing will integrate a multi-intelligence sensor and data processing system on a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER turboprop. The aircraft’s role is to eavesdrop on signal and communication transmissions, and use an electro-optical and infrared camera to identify potential targets from stand-off range.

The concept for EMARSS emerged in the aftermath of the cancellation of the aerial common sensor (ACS) programme in 2006. Rather than launch another acquisition programme to convert a jet-powered aircraft into a surveillance aircraft, the army instead to decided to modify the King Air 350ER.

Last June, Boeing outlined its bidding strategy for EMARSS. At the time, the company was a new competitor in the signals intelligence market. Several of the army’s major suppliers, including L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon – also submitted bids for EMARSS.

But Boeing executives believed that the company’s background as a systems integrator on large acquisition programmes would be a key discriminator in the EMARSS competition.

L-3 had already converted the King Air 350 into a surveillance platform for the US Air Force, with orders for 43 MC-12 Libertys. But Boeing noted that the Project Liberty programme used a fast-track acquisition process that differed from the army’s more traditional approach on EMARSS.

Boeing also has worked in the past two years to position itself to grow in the signals intelligence market. Earlier this year, the company acquired Argon ST, a communications intelligence supplier to the army.

The EMARSS contract signing is also a major victory for the King Air 350ER, which has gained a new prominence in the special missions market since 2006. The contract also is a boost for Hawker Beechcraft, the aircraft manufacturer, and King Air modification specialists, such as Raisbeck Engineering.

Since the dawn of modern warfare, the best way to stay alive in the face of incoming fire has been to take cover behind a wall. But thanks to a game-changing “revolutionary” rifle, the U.S. Army has made that tactic dead on arrival. Now the enemy can run, but he can’t hide.

After years of development, the U.S. Army has unleashed a new weapon in Afghanistan — the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, a high-tech rifle that can be programmed so that its 25-mm. ammunition detonates either in front of or behind a target, meaning it can be fired just above a wall before it explodes and kills the enemy.

It also has a range of roughly 2,300 feet — nearly the length of eight football fields — making it possible to fire at targets well past the range of the rifles and carbines that most soldiers carry today.

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon system for the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, said that the XM25’s capability alone is such a “game-changer” that it’ll lead to new ways of fighting on the battlefield, beginning this month in Afghanistan.

“With this weapon system, we take away cover from [enemy targets] forever,” Lehner told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. “Tactics are going to have to be rewritten. The only thing we can see [enemies] being able to do is run away.”

And that would make it much easier for U.S. troops to put them in their sights, either with that same XM25 or another direct-fire weapon.

With this new weapon in the Army’s arsenal, Lehner said, “We’re much more effective, by many magnitudes, than current weapons at the squad level. We’re able to shoot farther and more accurately, and our soldiers can stay behind sandbags, walls or rocks, which provides them protection from fire.”

Lehner said the first XM25s were distributed to combat units in Afghanistan this month. The 12-pound, 29-inch system, which was designed by Minnesota’s Alliant Techsystems, costs up to $35,000 per unit and, while highly sophisticated, is so easy to use that soldiers become proficient within minutes.

“That’s how intuitively easy it is, even though it’s high-tech,” Lehner said. “All a soldier needs to know how to do is laze the target. It decimates anything within its lethal radius.”

Once the trigger is pulled and the round leaves the barrel, a computer chip inside the projectile communicates exactly how far it has traveled, allowing for precise detonation behind or ahead of any target.

“We have found that this has really made our soldiers so much more accurate and being able to deliver this high-explosive round in about five seconds,” said Lehner, taking into account the time it takes a soldier to laze, aim and fire the weapon. Once fired, Lehner said, the round will reach its target in a “second or two,” meaning the entire process from aiming to direct hit lasts less than 10 seconds, compared to 10 minutes or longer for traditional mortar fire.

A potential battlefield scenario, according to Army officials, might go something like this:

— A patrol encounters an enemy combatant in a walled Afghan village who fires an AK-47 intermittently from behind cover, exposing himself only for a brief second to fire.

— The patrol’s leader calls for the XM25 gunman, who uses the weapon’s laser range finder to calculate the distance to the target.

— He then uses an incremental button located near the trigger to add 1 meter to the round’s distance, since the enemy is hiding behind a wall.

— The round is fired, and it explodes with a blast comparable to a hand grenade past the wall and above the enemy.

“This is revolutionary for many reasons,” Lehner said, citing increased efficiency, safety and lethality. “This is the first time we’re putting smart technology in an individual weapon system for our soldiers. We feel it’s very important to field this because it keeps us ahead of the technological curve of our potential enemies. We have a feeling other people will try to copy us — this is the future.”

Lehner said the Army plans to purchase at least 12,500 XM25 systems beginning next year — enough for one system in each infantry squad and Special Forces team.

The military isn’t overly concerned that the weapon might be captured by the enemy, because they would be unable to obtain its highly specialized ammunition, batteries and other components. Lehner said he expects other nations will try to copy its technology, but it will be very cost-prohibitive.

“This is a game-changer,” Lehner said. “The enemy has learned to get cover, for hundreds if not thousands of years.

“Well, they can’t do that anymore. We’re taking that cover from them and there’s only two outcomes: We’re going to get you behind that cover or force you to flee. So no matter what, we gotcha.”

Related Video:  XM-25 In Action

Sierra Nevada Studying X-34 As Rocket Testbed

Aviationweek – By Guy Norris

Los Angeles — Sierra Nevada is emerging as the likely front runner to use the former NASA X-34 reusable launch vehicle demonstrator as a flying testbed for its Dream Chaser orbital space vehicle.

The two surviving Orbital Sciences-built X-34s were moved by road to Mojave, Calif., on Nov. 16 from Edwards AFB, Calif., where they had been in storage since the program was canceled in 2001.

The two 58.3-ft. vehicles, now stored inside a hangar belonging to the National Test Pilots School, were developed under a NASA program begun in 1996 to provide a low-cost advanced technology flight demonstration testbed vehicle for space access.

Sierra Nevada Executive Vice President Mark Sirangelo confirms the company is studying the X-34 for a supporting role in the Dream Chaser development effort. “We are interested in this project with our interest being adapting our hybrid rocket motor for our orbital space vehicle Dream Chaser program to the X-34 as a test platform.”

Although Sirangelo says it remains too early to provide further details, he says the X-34 could likely be adapted for carriage beneath the Scaled Composites-built WhiteKnightTwo mothership, as well as the Orbital L-1011 which last carried the vehicle aloft for three flights in 1999.

Developed with the aim of reducing the cost of launching a pound of payload to orbit from $10,000 to $1,000, the X-34s were designed to test a wide range of advanced technologies. These included lightweight composite airframe structures, reusable composite propellant tanks, tank insulation, advanced thermal protection systems, integrated low-cost avionics and integrated automated vehicle health monitoring and checkout.

Aimed at testing up to speeds of Mach 8 and altitudes up to 50 mi., the first X-34 vehicle, A-1, made three captive-carry flights but never achieved full, free flight before the program ended.

Although originally conceived as a testbed for the reusable Fastrac engine designed and developed by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala., the vehicle is appropriately sized for the hybrid nitrous oxide, hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene-fueled rocket engine planned for the Dream Chaser. Developed by Sierra’s SpaceDev subsidiary, smaller versions of the hybrid rocket powered the Scaled SpaceShipOne, and will power Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The Dream Chaser is derived from the HL-20 lifting body. After several years of private funding by Sierra Nevada, the effort recently received a boost with the award of $20 million under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDEV) program, which is aimed at development of technologies that could lead to a space shuttle replacement.

With an orbital goal of around 200 mi. following vertical launch using existing boosters, the Dream Chaser is designed to return for a horizontal landing.

Sierra Nevada says each of the seven-seat vehicle’s multiple hybrid motors will produce about 100,000 lb. thrust, or about six times the thrust of the SpaceShipOne rocket motor.

First flight of Dream Chaser is targeted for 2014.

Digital close-air support improvements on the way

By Chuck Paone 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

11/30/2010 – HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) — Airmen on the ground whose mission is to help deliver close-air support will soon receive a set of tools that will help them do their jobs better while lightening the loads they’re required to carry.

Tactical air control party Airmen are assigned to Army units that engage in all levels of operations, ranging from dismounted patrols to convoy escort duty, and to command elements at operations centers. The TACP is the vital link between the ground commander and the combat aircraft pilot, whose job is to deliver close-air support to troops in contact with the enemy.

The upgrade headed for the field is a small wearable computer that fits into a pouch in a TACP member’s body armor. The computer replaces the laptop TACPs possess now, but is much more compact, weighing two pounds rather than eight. This allows them to carry and use the computers for digital CAS communications on dismounted “foot” patrols in the  terrain of Afghanistan.

“Perhaps as much as any program in the Electronic Systems Center’s Aerial Networking Division, the Tactical Air Control Party-Modernization program exemplifies our vision of joint air-land operations by providing advanced information exchange capabilities to the tactical edge of the battlefield,” said Col. Cordell DeLaPena, the division’s director.

Referred to as an SWC, the wearable computer will be fielded as soon as TACP Close-Air Support System software version 1.4.2 comes online, said Capt. Sean Carlson, the program manager for the CASS software.

The new CASS software greatly improves the operating picture viewed by close-air support aircraft and the one viewed by the TACPs themselves.

“The previous CASS software had a limited digital capability, where the new software paints a more complete picture of the engagement area: ‘friendlies,’ threats, targets, attack headings, etc.,” Captain Carlson said.

According to Master Sgt. Chris Spann, a TACP assigned to the program office here, this helps build the pilot’s situational awareness prior to entering the engagement area.

“In a troops-in-contact situation, this enables the pilot to more rapidly identify and engage ground targets,” he said. “And the TACP on the ground can now see that same operating picture on his computer.”

“Version 1.4.2 allows our TACPs to operate on foot and retain the situation awareness that our guys in the tactical operations centers have,” Sergeant Spann added. “SA is critical to safe and effective CAS missions and ensures bombs are on target, while reducing collateral damage.”

The new software also increases interoperability with Army units by making it easier for TACPs to augment close-air support strikes with Army artillery fire against enemy forces or other sensitive or mobile targets.

The software is now being used for training and will be released to the field in the coming months. While the SWC computers are being fielded, the new version will also be installed on computers used in tactical operations centers and the air support operations center.

In addition to providing the commanders in the operations centers the same tactical picture as the TACPs and pilots, the new software will also go on ASOC Gateways.

“Version 1.4.2 streamlines the entire CAS request, coordination and control process,” said Rob Bubello, program manager for TACP Modernization. “It helps TACPs get aircraft on target faster and reduces the probability of human error.”

The ESC team is developing a fielding plan now, and mobile training teams are already starting to deploy around the globe to bring users up to speed on the new software and its advantages.

“Getting all of this out to the TACPs in the field and to the ASOCs will improve interoperability, effectiveness and safety,” said Mr. Bubello. “We’re definitely taking some big steps in the right direction.”

NAVAIR News Release Number:  E201011301

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — The U.S. Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Cobra was approved for full rate production Nov. 28.

The H-1 program office received official word on the milestone III approval decision from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Dr. Ashton B. Carter through an acquisition decision memorandum.

“This is the culmination of a lot of focused hard work by a lot of dedicated professionals,” said Col. Harry Hewson, the Marines’ program manager for light and attack helicopter programs. “We spent the past two years executing a very detailed risk reduction program that tested every part of the weapons and fire control system on the AH-1Z.

It performed very well in operational test last spring and I am confident that it will do as well in combat as the UH-1Y is doing right now in Afghanistan. The next phase of this program is getting the Zulu into the hands of the fleet and into combat. The Zulu is going to give the Marines on the ground a whole new level of long range targeting and precision firepower for close air support.”

After completing operational testing this summer, the AH-1Z was determined to be operationally effective and suitable, a finding that is a prerequisite to the full rate production decision.

“Getting the Zulu into full rate production is very important for the Marines and for our Nation,” said Rear Adm. Steve Eastburg, Program Executive Officer for Air, Assault and Special Mission Programs. “Both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z deliver superb combat effectiveness to the Marine warfighter. We continue to build in production cost efficiencies to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the most for every dollar spent.”

The AH-1Z Cobra helicopters are part of the Marine Corps’ H-1 Upgrade Program. The program’s goal is to replace AH-1W helicopters with new and remanufactured AH-1Z which provide significantly greater performance, supportability and growth potential over their predecessors.

A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2021.

The AH-1Z is expected to achieve initial operating capability and embark on its first deployment in 2011.

The AH-1Z and the UH-1Y, the Marine Corps’ combat utility helicopter, are 84 percent identical. The UH-1Y was approved for full rate production in 2008.

Air Force scrambled to fix tanker information mix-up

After an Air Force mix-up that sent Boeing and EADS computer disks with crucial data on each other’s bid for the air refueling tanker contract, Boeing initially was left at a disadvantage, contrary to previous reports.

Seattle Times – By Dominic Gates

After an Air Force mix-up sent Boeing and EADS computer disks with crucial data on each other’s bid for the air-refueling tanker contract, Boeing initially was left at a disadvantage, contrary to previous reports.

The Air Force then had to scramble to level the playing field in the $40 billion competition.

When Boeing tanker-team officials got the errant disk last month, they recognized from the labeling that the disk was intended for EADS, and did not open it.

But their EADS counterparts did open the disk they received and looked at a spreadsheet of data on the mission performance of the Boeing 767 tanker, Air Force Col. Les Kodlick confirmed Tuesday.

Only afterward did the EADS reviewers realize the error. They then contacted the Air Force and returned the disk.

“EADS opened Boeing’s spreadsheet. Boeing did not look at the EADS spreadsheet,” said Kodlick.

To ensure that neither side could claim bias, he said, the Air Force then sent the corresponding spreadsheet data on EADS’ Airbus A330 tanker to Boeing and gave EADS back the spreadsheet on the Boeing tanker.

With that action, Kodlick said, the Air Force believes it has minimized the impact of what it described as “a clerical error.”

“Providing each company that same type of information equalized the playing field,” said Kodlick. “EADS got Boeing’s information and Boeing got EADS’, and they do now have that.”

Previously the Air Force had said only that both sides had “the same information,” but it didn’t divulge details.

The disks sent to each manufacturer contained other files, but the Air Force believes only the performance analysis spreadsheet was accessed.

Kodlick said that an independent forensic computer analysis was done to confirm exactly what data files Boeing and EADS had viewed.

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The forensic analysis “verified and is consistent with what both offerers said they did,” he said.

Boeing has requested access to the outcome of that analysis, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. That suggests Boeing is gathering all information that might be relevant to any protest of the eventual outcome.

Kodlick declined to comment on whether Boeing had asked the Air Force to see that analysis.

“We’re being prudent in what we say so we don’t compromise the source-selection process,” he said.

The Air Force asserts the data inadvertently provided to the two players in the $40 billion tanker competition was not proprietary, meaning it was not data belonging to either Boeing or EADS.

“It was government-created and derived information, not proprietary to either offerer,” said Kodlick.

But that doesn’t mean the switch involved innocuous information.

Each disk contained an Air Force spreadsheet quantifying the effectiveness of one proposed tanker in a series of mission simulations.

An Air Force computer model for various mission scenarios works out how many airplanes of the proposed type would be needed for each mission, where they would be based, how far they would have to fly, and how well they could meet the fuel demands of the combat aircraft.

An Air Force analysis of the Boeing 767’s performance as a tanker is arguably even more valuable to EADS than a proprietary Boeing analysis. Likewise, the Air Force analysis of the A330 is likely s more valuable to Boeing than an EADS self-assessment.

A crucial question is whether the leaked information could affect the final pricing of the airplanes. Kodlick reiterated the spreadsheet did not include “any offer or proposed pricing.”

However, the Air Force’s mission effectiveness spreadsheets, in determining how many planes are needed and how far they fly, could provide information on the costs of carrying out the missions.

Knowing this cost data could factor into an adjustment of the offering price still ahead in the contest’s final stages.

But the Air Force believes that since each company now has the other’s data, that doesn’t matter.

“Each offerer has the same information, so each could do the same thing” in weighing any price adjustment, said Kodlick. “It’s a level playing field.”

Kodlick said those responsible for the slip-up “will be held accountable.” Two Air Force employees have already been reassigned and further disciplinary action is not ruled out, he said.

After a decade of do-overs and appeals, a tanker contract award was expected to be decided by November but has now slipped into early next year.

Related Link:  Air Force officials continuing source selection for new tanker

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