Thursday, 31 May 2007

The human dimension of the Hardened and Networked Army: the lessons of friendly fire (PDF)

Land Warfare Studies Centre Papers
This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 can be found here.

Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER)

A new equipment which cuts down the sensor to shooter loop basically allows a foward air controller to see what the sensor pod (and the pilot) sees. As a result, errors in targeting are severely reduced. An additional use is for troops on the ground to see potential threats like IEDs, which are revealed by the IR mode of the sensor pods.

opswarfare finds that it will be great if the blue-force tracking capability is weaved into this equipment (or vice-versa). This will reduce fratricide occurrences, and make the designation (and monitoring) of enemy units much more streamlined and presented in real-time.
$6 billion tech haul for U.S. military

Bloomberg News
September 8, 2005

As an Iraqi sniper fired on US marines during the attack on the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November, a US airman on the ground peered at a small screen relaying pictures by satellite from a Predator drone.

Using directions relayed by the airman, the Predator's operator in the US zeroed in on the window of a building, fired one of two Hellfire missiles and killed the sniper, according to Lieutenant-General William Buchanan III, chief of the US Central Command's air forces.
The episode marked one of the earliest combat uses of Rover III, designed by L-3 Communications Holdings. The handheld military device, about the size of a personal digital assistant, allows ground forces to retrieve images from drones and other aircraft, giving them an advantage against rebels using roadside bombs and mortars, one of the main causes of US deaths in the Iraq war.

"As a naval officer, I would love to have a piece of equipment like that to help in the decision-making process," says Richard Lofgren of Capital Advisors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a US army reservist who is now commanding a patrol boat on the Tigris river.

"In combat, any edge you can get helps. As a portfolio manager, we like it that L-3 has been trying to do everything to leverage technology to help troops in the field."

Capital manages $US754 million ($985 million), including 185,000 L-3 shares.

L-3 and other US military contractors are benefiting as the Pentagon diverts taxpayers' money from long-term military programs to meet the immediate needs of its forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wars have helped speed the development of weapons and tools aimed at limiting US casualties.

Shares of L-3 rose US2c to $US81.90 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Before that, they had jumped 31 per cent in the past year, twice the return of the Standard and Poor's aerospace and defence index for the period.

Rover III "changes the way airpower is employed -- it changes the nature of war", says US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Gregory Harbin, assistant director of operations of the 609th Combat Operations Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina. "If we didn't have this capability, we'd be in a world of hurt right now."

Colonel Harbin says he was the first officer to operate Rover III in the field. He delivered it to the First Marine Expeditionary Force in April last year.

The system is now being used "a few times a week" in Iraq and Afghanistan, says US Air Force Captain David Small, a spokesman for the US Central Command's air force component.

Earlier versions of Rover were developed after a US Army Green Beret, fresh from Afghanistan, walked unannounced into the Aeronautical Systems Centre at Ohio's Wright Patterson Air Force Base in January 2002, Colonel Harbin says.

The paratroop officer wanted a device that would allow ground troops to immediately access video from aircraft.

Within two weeks, he returned to Afghanistan with a prototype built by the systems centre, based on a C-band receiver that allowed AC130 aircraft to relay Predator images to command posts in the rear.

Air Force Major Stephanie Holcombe declined to identify the Green Beret for reasons of security.

Rover II, in use since early 2002, was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, the prime contractor for the Predator. The device lets ground troops see surveillance images transmitted to a laptop computer, although the images are delayed because they first go to US command centres before being relayed to troops in the field.

"You're now going into urban warfare, where everything changes," says Frank Lanza, 73, chief executive of New York-based L-3.

"You can't afford to have U-2s or Global Hawks taking information back to a command centre and then hope someone warns you on a radio that there's a sniper over there."

Rover III, created by L-3 in about 18 months, is more compact than Rover II and can also access digital-multiband video from the Predator and other aircraft, and communicate back in real time over existing secure satellite links.

"What I have is the ability, if I'm flying overhead and I have a town, I could have soldiers on every street," says General Buchanan, 55.

"If they've got a Rover, they can all draw down exactly the same picture to let them know what is out there."

The $US60,000 Rover III, which stands for Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, weighs about 5.4kg, including a receiver that can be carried in a backpack. It was developed by L-3's Communications Systems West unit, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. So far, Rovers are managed by US air personnel assigned to ground units.

Since last September, 250 Rover IIIs have been delivered to the US Air Force, the Marines, the Army and Special Forces, L-3 spokeswoman Jennifer Barton says, and 260 are on firm order.

About 700 more are likely to be delivered by next June.

Rover IV, which will be delivered next year, will allow better two-way communication, Colonel Harbin says. Operators on the ground will be able to electronically mark a target instead of having to talk warplane pilots through an attack on it.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, 1874 US troops and 192 other coalition soldiers have been killed in Iraq and at least 14,120 US troops wounded, according to the Pentagon. Coalition deaths in the Afghanistan conflict number 288, with 571 US troops wounded.

The US has about 138,000 troops fighting in Iraq and 17,900 in the Afghanistan conflict.

Since forming L-3 in 1997 from 10 discarded divisions of Lockheed Martin, Lanza has focused on components, subsystems and small systems rather than competing with the largest companies for military platforms like warplanes, ships and tanks.

That approach allows for faster development and deployment of military products, according to L-3, which counted on government orders for 90 per cent of its $US6.9 billion in sales last year. The corporation's net income has risen by at least 21 per cent in the past 13 quarters.

"Our job is to listen to the user and see what they need and where they are going," Lanza says. "You have to listen before you can talk. We went in listening to a problem and said we had a solution."

Sunday, 13 May 2007

A modern RPG?

opswarfare finds it strange that there is no Western equivalent of the ubiquitous Russian rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The closest weapon similar to the RPG that one can think of is the Panzerfaust 3 series. However, that system is heavier, being designed for anti-tank applications. The closest Western system in the spirit of a multi-purpose manportable rocket, the M72 series, is a one-shot throwaway, instead of being reloadable like the RPG7 series. While there are a few new systems coming to the fore, they seem to be one-shot throwaway solutions. These include the MBT LAW, Panzerfaust 90, and Predator.