Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Is this the future of ISTAR?

Flight International - BAE to explore new UAV technologies for Australian DoD
The key paragraph of the article below
"...key focus points...increased autonomy during target detection and recognition, on-board image processing to reduce bandwidth demands, and the use of simultaneous location and mapping techniques to reduce reliance on GPS guidance."
3 issues are highlighted
  1. the Mark I eyeball is still often the "device" used for spotting (and identifying) targets when an UAV flys over area of interest
  2. bandwidth problems still persist, as the demand for full-motion video outstrips the supply of data bandwidth available
  3. defence planners are already thinking of future scenarios where enemy forces may have the ability to jam GPS signals, which many assets (not just UAVs) are currently relying on
The recent mushrooming of manned ISTAR aircraft is also a partial "solution" to the issues highlighted above, with humans on board being able to sieve through the footage in real-time, without having to transmit it to a ground station (which would eat up vital bandwidth), plus help to navigate the aircraft manually.

This "information management" will become more and more critical as ground commanders get increasingly "addicted" to having an extra pair of "eyes in the sky". For example, instead of just simply driving out on a patrol, a commander may first ask for an UAV to fly over the area in question before he/she sets off.

p.s. almost forgot to highlight the Taranis UCAV mentioned at the end of the article. opswarfare waits with bated breath to see which UCAV will go into production first...

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Air International - more snippets

Following from a previous post, opswarfare was able to borrow a few recent issues of Air International from Tampines Library. Some highlights from 4 issues below.

October 2008
Israel Moves its Transports to Nevatim
  • Israel Air Force moved its heavy transport wing from Lod Air Base 27 to Nevatim Air Base 28
  • C-130E/H Hercules, IAI-1124N Seascan, KC-707/VC-707, G550 Nachshon Eitams, and GV Nanchshon Shavit involved
AT-6B for ANG
  • A AT-6B has reportedly been ordered for the US Air National Guard, due to be delivered in 2009. It is expected to be evaluated for potential use in Afghanistan & Iraq
Su-34 Fullback tactical bomber
  • 1st 2 series aircraft delivered on 15 December
  • no more production seen since
November 2008
UK seeks RC-135
  • notification (PDF) of possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS)
  • conversion of 3 USAF KC-135R Stratotankers to RC-135V or W standard
  • Nimrod R.1 was involved in upgrade programme "Project Helix"
prototype XP-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft handed over to Japanese defence ministry
  • anticipated that 70 P-1 will be built for JMSDF to replace current fleet of P-3C Orions
Russian strategic bombers in Stability 2008 exercise
  • Tu-160 & Tu-95MS participated, carrying 6 and 12 Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) missiles respectively
  • They were involved in live-firing exercises
  • Tu-22M3 also involved, exercise runs from 22 Sep to 21 Oct
Super Hind Mk V on display
  • upgrade programme by South African firm Advanced Technologies and Engineering
  • composite blades, PALL sand filters, Carl Zeiss Optronics sighting system, Denel 20mm cannon, and Thales chaff and flares
Gabriel to be modernised
  • Thales selected to upgrade ELINT system on Transall C160G Gabriel from 2011 onwards
  • 2 C160Gs are flown by EEA 11.054 Dunkerque from Metz-Frescaty
Georgia Air War analysed
  • Georgia - 4 million people, army of 17,000,
  • Georgian Air Force - 9 combat capable Su-25 Frogfoots, 9 Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters
  • Russian response to Georgian offensive was swift, as troops of the North Caucasus military command had been preparing for this scenario for the previous 2 years
  • first columns of Russian 58th Army moved towards South Ossetia as dawn broke, which suggests that logistic support was pre-prepared
  • they were supported by elements of the 76th Air Assault and 96th Airborne Divisions
  • opportunity to combat-test the Iskander-M tactical missile
  • absence of C4ISR architecture for Russian forces
  • few night-vision devices,
  • Georgia deployed Buk-M1 (SA-11), Osa-AK (SA-8B), and Osa-AKM SAM systems
  • Russian Air Force flew around 200 sorties during the 5-day conflict
  • lack of night-vision equipment meant it operated mostly during the day
  • no suppression of of enemy air defence (SEAD) campaign, Anti-Radiation Missiles not used
USAF 1st Special Operations Wing
  • AC-130U Spooky set to receive upgrades - AN/APQ-180 fire control system/synthetic aperture radar
  • this is an enhanced version of the APG-70 radar on the F-15E Strike Eagle
  • other planned modifications are ALQ-172 ECM and ALR-56M RWR
  • AFSOC is investigating the possibility of using C-27Js for gunship role
  • AFSOC has ordered 14 HC/MC-130Js
  • CV-22B due to deploy in October to trans-Saharan Africa for Exercise Flintlock 09
Harrier in RAF service
  • 3 (F) squadron deployed 8 GR.7s to Kandahar since Sep 2004
  • CVR-7 70mm rocket has been weapon of choice when low collateral damage is the most important consideration
  • Harriers usually sortie in pairs with mixed loads
  • One will carry CVR-7 rockets and 688lb or 1,113lb general purpose bombs, while the other will be armed with 1,201lb Enhance Paveway II laser/GPS-guided weapons
  • They use the Sniper pod purchased under UOR, and also regularly use the Digital Joint Reconnaissance pod (DJRP)
  • latest weapon cleared for use is 496lb GPS/laser-guided Paveway IV bomb
Reconnaissance airborne pod for tornado (RAPTOR)
  • DB-110 dual band electro-optical/infra-red
  • CCD day sensor with nominal 110in focal length lens
  • 55in mid-wave indium antinomide infra-red sensor
  • 72km EO, 36km IR
  • Derivative of senior year electro-optical reconnaissance system (SYERS)
  • rapid deployment electro-optical system (RADEOS)
  • Withdrawal of Canberra PR9 caused a loss of capability since the tornado could not carry RAPTOR to anything like the altitudes achieved, giving shorter stand-off range and imposing limitations (of graze angles) when operating over mountainous terrain
  • Falcon Prowl trial
  • Polish F-16 Peace Sky fitted with new 3 POV
December 2008
Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) cancelled due to Nunn-McCurdy breech
  • OH-58Ds to be upgraded in the meantime
Armed Grand Caravans for Iraq
  • 2 Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, armed with a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
  • An electro-optical/infra-red sensor is mounted under the fuselage on the port side
  • to reduce distortion for the sensor produced by heat haze, the exhaust shroud for the aicraft's turboprop has been extended to starboard
reopened Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) contract expected in 1st quarter of 2009
  • 38 aircraft
  • further update here
Mi-17 for Thailand
  • 6 to be acquired
concept design and proposals for proof of concept - DARPA submersible aircraft
  • envisaged to clandestinely infiltrate small teams into coastal regions
  • carrying 8 people, including the crew, and a payload of 2,000lb (910kg), it would have a range of 1,000nm (1,850km) in the air, 100nm (185km) on the surface of the sea, or 12nm (22 km) under it
  • air for vehicle's powerplant supplied via snorkel, limiting the depth the vessel can travel at
  • once personnel have been deployed, the craft would loiter for up to 3 days
Ac-27 Stinger II
  • 16 aircraft under the AC-XX Gunship Lite project
  • either a 30mm or 40mm cannon
  • able to carry precision-guided munitions such as Viper Strike
  • National Airborne Operations Center
  • now with 1st ACCS, 55th Wing
Diamond DA42MPP Twin Star
  • Multi-Purpose Platform (MPP)
  • wide variety of equipment
  • laser scanning, synthetic aperture radar, photogrammetric and hyperspectral scanning, a beyond line-of-sight and in line-of-sight microwave downlink, high definition/infra-red (HD/IR) video systems
  • range of over 2,500km
  • low noise signature makes its virtually undetectable at much lower altitudes and its composite construction results in a reduced radar profile
  • MPP with Scotty system - nose-mounted observation camera (thermal imaging & visible light) and beyond line-of-sight satcom link with a mechanically-steered high-gain satellite antenna in an external radome fitted on the upper rear fuselage
  • ability to upload and download data (up to 4 channels, each 64kbps transmitted via Inmarsat, allowing for simultaneous transmission of voice, data and both stored and real-time video)
  • 17 MPP aircraft completed till date
  • 6 ordered by Venezuelan government, 2 recently delivered to Niger
  • 2 to British company, DO Systems, allocated military serials ZA179 & ZA180 - speculation that they are linked to a RAF ISTAR programme
Exercise Crown Condor
  • joint RAF and Swedish Air Force exercise
  • part of Exercise Joint Warrior 2008 Serial 2
  • practice of close air-support, including sorties in an urban environment designed to replicate current operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, convoy support and time-sensitive targetting
Trial Imperial Hammer
  • NATO counter terrorism exercise
  • flying assets assigned to Blue Force
  • 'terrorists' of Red Force consisted of ground troops that had air defences and could jam GPS signals
  • missions included SEAD, intercepting contraband weapons on land and sea, locating hostages, escorting civilian and military convoys, locating and deactivating IEDs, and CSAR
  • IED jammer named 'Jedi' tested - manufactured by RESTOGE
  • Italian Air Force tested the Reccelite reconnaissance pod on its Tornado aircraft
  • SIGINT aircraft deployed, including a Spanish Air Force Boeing 707 (TM.17-4, 47-04, of 47 Grupo Mixto), Italian Air Force G.222VS (71° Gruppo), and USAF C-130H (with 'Senior Scout' module)
January 2009
RAF Shadow R.1
  • based on King Air 350ER airframe
  • assigned to 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron
  • acquired under UOR to provide additional ISR over Afghanistan
  • carry a large number of communications antennae, an EO sensor in a ball turret, and a canoe-like fairing under the fuselage which seem to have windows pointing forward and to the sides
  • possible that this fairing contains an EO system similar to that deployed by the US Army in its Constant Hawk aircraft
  • these record ground activity so that perpetrators of attacks can be identified
Brazil orders Hinds
  • 12 Mi-35M ordered
  • will be used in conjunction with Super Tucanos against the narcotics trade
Flankers for Indonesia
  • 3 Su-27SKM and 3 Su-30MK2
  • due to be based at Hasanuddin air base on Sulawesi, alongside 4 others delivered in 2003
Hawgsmoke 2008
  • biennual weapons contest for A-10 pilots
  • strafing, dropping practice bombs, and firing captive carry TGM-65 rounds
Exercise Jebel Sahara 2008
  • event in Morocco to support Royal Gibraltar Regiment, and also to familiarise with conditions similar to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • allowed crews to learn how to spot safe landing sites, recognise the first signs of rapidly changing weather conditions, and operate their helicopters at the limit of the engines
  • rear aircrew also taught how to give pilots positive voice 'patter' on approaching obstacles, rotor and fuselage clearances on difficult mountain landing zones ranging from boulder and tree-strewn areas on the lower levels, to deep snow on the higher peaks

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Afghanistan: Battle in Helmand Province

Getty Images photographer John Moore was embedded with British forces in Southern Afghanistan in 2007.

Information overload

The situation has been getting tougher by the day. RSS feeds allowed for consolidated viewing via a RSS reader, but it does not reduce the huge amount of military news and analysis floating around in cyberspace. Twitter has made the situation worse, with reporters able to post quick tidbits, even before their full blog posts are completed. opswarfare has reduced the number of its blog posts, as info found while trawling the Net is now usually tweeted instead of expanded upon in a proper blog post. opswarfare is monitoring the situation, and hopes to resume its production rate, and more specifically, will seek to blog about info from new sources.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

French urban warfare tactics

Currently watching a TV5MONDE (french TV channel) programme featuring the French Army, possibly in conjunction with Bastille Day.

One of the segments involved the use of the FELIN system at a french urban warfare training facility called CENZUB

In one scene, the troops drive their VBCI armoured vehicle to the side of a building and climb out of the top hatch to storm a building via a window on the 2nd floor. No sure if other forces do this, but it's the first time opswarfare has seen this. It looks like a viable alternative o the usual methods of clearing from 1st level windows, or from the roof down.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The oldest trick in the book

BBC NEWS | South Asia | US soldiers killed in Afghanistan
While a massive offensive kicks off in the South, a deadly attack on a camp occurs in the East. This is classic insurgency warfare. Lie low when the enemy comes in force, strike them hard at their weakest point (or the point where they think is the safest).

It's relatively "easy" to make an IED and detonate one as a vehicle drives past. That is a target of opportunity. In comparison, it takes quite some effort to plan an attack on an army camp, using a mixture of troops, mortars, and a suicide truck. This is a deliberate target.

There are no easy solutions in sight for the war in Afghanistan.