UK’s future force to lean heavily into robotics, AI and hybrid power

A British soldier launches a drone during an exercise on the Defence Ministry’s training area at Salisbury Plain on Oct. 13, 2020.

By Jen Judson 

WASHINGTON — The British Army is leaning heavily into robotics, artificial intelligence and hybrid-power technology as part of a new acquisition process dubbed Mercury, according to a British Army leader involved in future procurement planning.

The Army is grappling with how to acquire technologies that it believes it will need in the future, how to spiral in those technologies across its equipment programs and how to cultivate skills in its soldiers to use capabilities as they come online, Col. Christopher Coton, the service’s assistant head for concepts, said at the DSEI defense exhibition in London on Sept. 15.

Driving innovation to achieve its goals, the Army must better identify technologies that will likely change the way the service operates and fights, Coton said. This would be done by drawing on traditional and nontraditional suppliers, the officer added, and the service needs to better articulate what it needs to both small and large companies capable of helping to co-develop technology along the way.

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DoD Pioneering NextGen Satellites, Sensors in Space

The Department of Defense (DoD) is pioneering a slew of next-generation satellites and sensors to deliver critical data to military command centers from space, and to track and target missile threats and other time-sensitive targets, officials from the Space Development Agency (SDA) and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said at the Defense One Tech Summit on June 22.

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Rocket Delivery Of Cargo Anywhere In An Hour In New Air Force Budget Proposal

Next year, the Air Force wants to test a way to move a C-17’s worth of cargo, and potentially personnel, extremely quickly to any location on Earth.

BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK

The U.S. Air Force has released new details about its questionably ambitious plans to develop a capability to send payloads weighing up to 100 tons, including cargo and potentially personnel, roughly equivalent to the maximum load of a C-17 airlifter, anywhere in the world within one hour via a space launch rocketor derivative thereof. The service now wants to demonstrate the basic feasibility of this concept in a real end-to-end test next year. 

This and other information is contained in the service’s proposed budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year, which includes a request for nearly $48 million in additional funding for this program. This is an almost five-fold increase over the funding it received for this project for the current fiscal cycle. The Air Force 2022 Fiscal Year budget request, which was released on May 28, 2021, as part of the larger proposed budget for the U.S. military as a whole for that fiscal cycle, also identified the blandly-titled Rocket Cargo program as one of the service’s “Vanguard” efforts. The service first unveiled the concept of Vanguard Programs, a way to identify advanced research and development efforts of particularly high interest, last year. Rocket Cargo is the fourth Vanguard, with the others being the Skyborg initiative to develop an artificial intelligence-driven “computer brain” able to fly various types of future unmanned aircraft, the Golden Horde networked swarming munitions project, and the Navigation Technology Satellite 3 (NTS-3) effort.

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US Air Force To Use Autonomous Flying Cars to Pick Up The Injured

The US Air Force’s flying car

By  Fabienne Lang

Using flying cars and eVTOLs could drastically change the way the U.S. Air Force operates in the future.

They could immensely assist medevac situations, for instance, as they could act as flying ambulances by autonomously flying to a remote airfield, landing vertically so that an injured troop member could hop aboard, strap into its wearable technologies to monitor their condition, and fly off to a site where the person can be safely looked after.

That’s one of the visions that the U.S. Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements, Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, has for the future of the flying car, reported Military.com.

Not only could the flying car save lives, but it could also do so while minimizing the Air Force’s carbon footprint, and while saving the Air Force carting heavy fuel around for its aircraft and cars. They could be used to transport VIPs or during National Guard missions for firefighting, people recovery, search and rescue, and aeromedical evacuation, said Hinote.

On top of that, it would enable people to be picked up from hard-to-reach sites, something that’s integral for the Air Force, not only because air fields and runways are targets for enemy fire, but also because sometimes troops are sent far and wide to remote areas. Typically helicopters have done the job in those areas, but again, they have relied on fuel. 

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THOR – The Microwave Weapon Designed To Countervail Drone Swarms

By Kris Osborn – Warrior Maven

(Washington D.C.) The Army and Air Force are collaborating on prototype directed energy weapons designed to jam, dismantle, take-out or simply stop attacking drones, bringing emerging technologies to the increasingly high-risk base defense mission.

The weapon, which uses high-powered microwave technology to disable the “electronics” in drones and counter “multiple targets” at once, is believed to be capable of stopping the much discussed and very serious threat posed by drone swarms.

The prototype Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR), a new weapon developed by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), is a large microwave dish housed in a 20ft-long shipping container transportable on a cargo plane, an Air Force report explains.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office is now working to build upon progress made by the AFRL to develop the weapon as a directed energy solution able to complement the direct-target technology afforded by precision laser weapons.

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UK Army could be 25-percent robotic by 2030, says British general

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Do you want Skynet? Because this is how you get Skynet

The big picture: The UK military is moving forward with plans to develop and deploy several thousand combat robots, some which might be autonomous. So far, militaries worldwide have avoided using unmanned technologies in combat situations. Semi-autonomous drones have a pilot who is always at the controls, so humans make the final strike decisions, not AI.

British Army leaders think that by 2030 nearly a quarter of the UK’s ground troops will be robots. That is almost 30,000 autonomous and remote-controlled fighting machines deployed within about a decade.

“I suspect we could have an army of 120,000, of which 30,000 might be robots, who knows?” General Sir Nick Carter told The Guardian in an interview.

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The Navy’s underwater drone is the future of submarine warfare

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The Navy could theoretically procure many armed Orcas for the price of a single Virginia.

Here’s What You Need To Remember: The Orca isn’t the first underwater drone under construction, and it certainly won’t be the last.

At a military parade celebrating its 70th anniversary, the People’s Republic of China unveiled, amongst many other exotic weapons, two HSU-001 submarines—the world’s first large diameter autonomous submarines to enter military service.

The unarmed robot submarines visibly had communication masts and sonar aperture suggestive of their intended role as tireless underwater surveillance systems intended to report on the movements of warships and submarines of other navies in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

While the United States may not be the first to operationally drone a Large Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV), it is not far behind with a slightly smaller sub Extra Large UUV. In February 2019, the Navy awarded Boeing a $274.4 million contract to build four (later increased to five) Orca autonomous vehicles, beating out a more elongated and cylindrical design proposed by Lockheed Martin.

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General Atomics and Boeing’s new liquid laser could win high-energy weapon race

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The powerful, compact HELLADS liquid laser

The military has been striving to build a laser powerful enough to make an effective weapon literally since the first ruby laser was demonstrated back in 1960. Now General Atomics is working with Boeing BA +6.8% to finally realize the goal of a truly weapons-grade laser using new ‘liquid laser’ technology to break through the barrier holding back current devices.

The original ruby laser had an output of a fraction of watt, and could not be scaled up. Many other types of laser have been developed over the last sixty years, with generous military funding channeled into those that showed weapons potential. The gas dynamic laser, which resembled a lasing reaction taking place inside a rocket motor, was highly classified in the 1970s. One researcher joked that the best way to harm an enemy with such a massive a laser was to drop it on them.

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Researchers create robots that can transform their wheels into legs

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Concept illustration of the adaptable Wheel-and-Leg Transformable Robot currently being developed under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract.

A team of researchers is creating mobile robots for military applications that can determine, with or without human intervention, whether wheels or legs are more suitable to travel across terrains. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has partnered with Kiju Lee at Texas A&M University to enhance these robots’ ability to self-sufficiently travel through urban military environments.

The DARPA OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program awarded Lee, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution and the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering, and a team of graduate students another contract after her prior successful accomplishments on developing a mixed-reality swarm simulator with embedded consensus-based decision making for adaptive human-swarm teaming as part of the OFFSET Sprint-3. This project was showcased at OFFSET’s third field experiment (FX3) with other participating teams.

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The US Army is testing augmented reality goggles for dogs

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The AR goggles will allow military canine handlers to issue commands remotely.

 

The US Army is trialing a new technology that could “fundamentally change how military canines are deployed in the future” — a pair of augmented reality goggles for dogs.

Dogs are put to many uses in modern militaries, from detecting explosives and searching for targets to accompanying infantry patrols in dangerous areas. Usually, handlers issue commands to their dogs using hand signals or laser pointers, but these techniques require line of sight with the dog, limiting how far canines can stray from their humans.

AR reality goggles, though, could let military dogs operate at a distance without handlers losing control. The goggles have a built-in camera that transmits live footage remotely, and a heads-up display that can be used to show commands to the dogs. A dog could be directed to search a specific location, for example, while their handler stays hidden.

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Work begins on Starlink-like constellation of small hypersonic missile-tracking satellites

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The Pentagon’s grand space strategy envisions a shift from larger, expensive satellites to massive constellations of smaller, easier to replace ones.

 The U.S. military has hired L3Harris and SpaceX to build small satellites with powerful infrared sensors capable of spotting and tracking ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons. These satellites could become part of a large and broader early warning constellation with hundreds of space-based sensors and communications nodes watching for incoming threats, monitoring their flight, and potentially providing targeting data to missile defense assets.

The Pentagon announced that the Space Development Agency (SDA) had awarded the contracts to L3Harris and SpaceX, worth around $193.5 million and just over $149 million, respectively, on Oct. 5, 2020. Each company will be responsible for building four satellites, each with a wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensor, in support of work on what SDA calls Tranche 0 of the Tracking Layer of the planned overarching early warning constellation.

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The US military’s heat weapon is real and painful. Here’s what it does.

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It is in the same category as a sonic tool that’s known as “the voice of God.”

Earlier this week, an NPR report uncovered an exchange from June 1, in which a military police officer wanted to know if the D.C. National Guard owned a pain-inducing heat weapon for potentially using on protesters. He also asked about a powerful auditory communication system that’s been compared to the “voice of God.”

The weapon, the Active Denial System (ADS), is a real thing, as is the sound system, which is called a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

In documents published by NPR, a member of the National Guard recounted the email thread in which the question was asked, and stated: “I responded that the DC National Guard was not in possession of either an LRAD or an ADS.”

The fact that a controversial weapon was floated as a possible means of dealing with what the Washington Post described as “peaceful protesters” has sparked outrage, with the ACLU writing on Twitter: “REMINDER: Our government shouldn’t be conspiring to use heat rays against us for exercising our constitutional rights.”

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