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by Gail Helmer

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Friday May 24, 2002

Military News
X-45A Begins Flight Testing
The Boeing X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, or UCAV, technology-demonstration aircraft on May 22 made aerospace history by completing its first flight. This step marks the beginning of flight testing of the first unmanned system designed from inception for combat.

X-45A flew for 14 minutes at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, reaching an airspeed of 195 knots and altitude of 7,500 feet. Flight characteristics and basic aspects of aircraft operations, particularly the command and control link between the aircraft and the mission-control station, were successfully demonstrated.

Later this year a second X-45A will begin flying, leading to the start of multiaircraft flight-test demonstrations next year. Those coordinated flight tests are the technical heart of the program and the key to unlocking the transformational potential of this revolutionary weapon system. Further testing will continue to explore the boundaries of intelligent unmanned combat operations, culminating in fiscal 2006 with UCAVs and manned aircraft operating together during an exercise.

The operational UCAV system concept will be refined in parallel with X-45A flight testing. The X-45B fieldable prototype, now under development, will be larger and more capable than its predecessors. It will lay the foundation for an initial operational system toward the end of this decade.

Raytheon Receives HTI FLIR Contract
Raytheon Company has received a $53 million U.S. Army contract for Horizontal Technology Integration (HTI) second-generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) B-Kits for fiscal year 02 through fiscal year 03 full-rate production.

The multiyear fixed firm-price contract contains options for first- and second-year quantities for HTI B-Kits as well as an optional third year. Work will be performed by Raytheon's Tactical Systems business unit in McKinney, Texas.

The second-generation FLIR allows improved detection and engagement of tanks and other heavy armored vehicles at significantly greater stand-off ranges over first-generation FLIR systems. It is used on platforms such as the new M1 Abrams, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and the HMMWV.

USS Safeguard to Search for Misawa F-16 Aircraft
The U.S. Air Force has requested the assistance of the U.S. Navy to recover the wreckage of an F-16 aircraft that crashed April 15 into the Sea of Japan off the coast of the Aomori Prefecture.

USS Safeguard (ARS 50) is scheduled to begin operations May 29, after a civilian contracted firm surveys the ocean floor at the crash site to localize the position of the wreckage. Once the wreckage has been localized and the conditions of the salvage effort are more fully understood, the ship's salvage experts will determine the specific recovery methods that will be employed.

Safeguard is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan, as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet's Forward Deployed Naval Forces.

The USS Safeguard's operation is in support of the U.S. Air Force's safety investigation of the mishap. All information gathered in the search and salvage operation will be shared with the Safety Investigation Board (SIB) president, Col. Jeff Fee, and an Accident Investigation Board (AIB) president who has not yet been named.

Following any class A mishap, which is an incident involving loss of life or damage in excess of $1 million, the U.S. Air Force immediately sets in motion two investigations. The Safety Investigation is initiated immediately following a mishap and takes place prior to the Accident Investigation. Its primary purpose is to determine the cause of the mishap in order to prevent future mishaps.

The accident investigation is intended primarily to gather and preserve evidence, provide information to family members, respond to inquiries and to assist with potential claims, litigation, disciplinary action and for administrative purposes.

The major difference in the two reports is that the SIB report may include recommendations to prevent future mishaps. The accident report does not include recommendations. As a matter of Department of Defense policy, the SIB Report is not disclosed outside of safety channels due to the need to ensure all available information and opinions are provided immediately to Air Force safety investigators. The aircraft accident investigation report is releasable.

The wing suspended flying operations following the incident to conduct extensive safety checks on its two squadrons of F-16 aircraft. Extensive maintenance checks included the jet's turbofan engines, fuel systems, flight controls, brakes, tires, tail hooks and ejection seats. All aircraft met the requirements of the stringent safety inspection and flights resumed.

To further ensure the wing's commitment to safety, pilots and maintenance technicians reviewed all operational regulations to ensure they were in compliance with these guidelines.

Findings from the accident investigation board will be made available when the investigation is complete.

Officials Release A-10A Accident Report
Air Force investigators have determined that loss of situational awareness contributed to the midair collision of two Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft during a close-air-support training mission Jan. 17 near Douglas, Ariz.

However, investigators were unable to determine a clear and convincing cause. Federal law and Air Force instructions require that accident investigators may only make a finding as to the cause of a accident if the investigators find clear and convincing evidence to support their findings.

The aircraft were destroyed upon impact about 25 miles northeast of Douglas. Lt. Col. Lance A. Donnelly was killed, and Capt. Patrick Boland was injured in the accident. The aircraft were assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The board was able to determine that the pilot who died did not have his parachute harness leg straps connected. As a result, he was forcibly extracted from his harness when the parachute opened.

Pentagon Rolls Out 'Latest, Greatest Prototype' Soldier System
DoD engineers are developing the 2010-era Objective Force Warrior even before the next- generation Land Warrior is fielded in 2004. Project managers from the Natick Soldier Center in Natick, Mass., rolled out a prototype Objective Force Warrior for the Pentagon press corps today.

Project Engineer Dutch Degay called the prototype the "latest and greatest" individual soldier system. He explained the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki tasked the Natick lab to "completely rebuild the (combat) soldier as we know him."

Historically, researchers have devised upgrades to current equipment. The Objective Force Warrior program tossed out the current system of individual equipment in its entirety and designed a new "integrated, holistic" system from the skin out, Degay said. He explained that the Land Warrior system adds many new capabilities to the current system of field gear through an electronic component soldiers will carry.

The Objective Force Warrior system, scheduled for fielding in 2008, completely integrates these electronic capabilities. Degay explained that soldiers will never again have to wear cumbersome night-vision or infrared goggles or heavy laser training components on their helmets. These and other features thermal sensors, day- night video cameras, and chemical and biological sensors -- are fully integrated within the helmet. It also includes a visor that can act as a "heads-up display monitor" equivalent to two 17-inch computer monitors in front of the soldier's eyes.

The uniform system is a multi-function garment working from the inside out, Degay said. It incorporates physiological sensors that allow the soldier, the chain of command and nearby medics to monitor the soldier's blood pressure, heart rate, internal and external body temperature, and caloric consumption rate. Commanders and medics can access the information through a tactical local area network.

Heat and cold injuries are responsible for a large percentage of casualties in both battle and training, Degay said. But if a medic can monitor a soldier's vital signs, many of these types of injuries can be prevented. If a soldier is injured, medics can start making an assessment before they even get to an injured soldier. "And that saves time on the battlefield," Degay said.

The Objective Force Warrior system has a built-in "microclimate conditioning system." Degay explained the private climate-control system has a "spacer fabric" that's a little bit thicker than a regular cotton T-shirt. The garment has "capillaries" that blow hot or cold air through the system. The system's many functions are powered by fuel cells, which Degay described as "cell phone batteries on steroids."

A primary concern in designing the Objective Force Warrior system is overall weight carried by individual soldiers. Soldiers on combat patrols in Afghanistan today typically carry 92 to 105 pounds of mission-essential equipment, Degay said. This can include extra ammunition, chemical protective gear and cold-weather clothing.

The requirement for the Objective Force Warrior system is to weigh no more than 45 to 50 pounds. Many of the system's built-in functions do away with the need to carry extra equipment. The climate-control feature eliminates the need to carry extra clothing. The outer garment has some biological and chemical protection capabilities, reducing the need to carry extra protective gear.

"What we are trying to do at the very fabric uniform level is consolidate all those systems into one so we lessen the overall bulk and weight" carried by soldiers, Degay said. Anything else that's mission-essential but not built in to the individual soldier system will be carried on a "robotic mule." Degay explained the mule is part of the system. Each squad will have one of the small, remote-controlled wheeled vehicles that can perform a multitude of functions for the soldiers.

"(The mule) will assist with not only taking some of the load carriage off the individual soldier, but he also provides a host of other functions," he said. "Primarily water generation (and) water purification. He's a recharging battery station for all the individual Objective Force Warriors in the squad. He acts as a weapons platform. He has day and night thermal, infrared and forward-looking imaging systems inside the nose of the mule, as well as chemical-biological sensors."

The mule can also communicate with unmanned aerial vehicles to give the squad members a true 360-degree image of the battlefield. Currently this capability isn't available below the battalion level, Degay said.

"It's a follower, and it can be manipulated and brought forth by any member of the squad," he said. "It's essentially a mini load-carriage system that's there for them all the time, which allows us to lighten the load for the individual soldier, but he has resupply available at a moment's notice."

Degay said that in the past, such foresight and interchangeability has only gone into major weapons and vehicle platforms. "Historically we have spent millions of dollars on platforms," he said. But, "the soldier is the centerpiece of our Army, and we are finally making that investment for (the soldier) individually."

Eurofighter Timetable Revised for RAF Service
The UK's MOD has announced a revised timetable for the introduction of Eurofighter into service with the Royal Air Force. The current slippage is thought to be about six months. In a statement the MOD said that as early as February it believed the June 2002 In Service Date (ISD) was under threat, "...delays in bringing the detailed design to full maturity in some areas prevented the flight test programme from starting on time

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Bach said, "Following a thorough review of the programme involving the partner nations, the NATO agency responsible for undertaking the procurement, and industry, we have jointly concluded that acceptance of the first aircraft into service should be delayed, to take place by the end of this year, and we shall plan on that basis."

The MOD said it would work with industry to recover lost time and to achieve the planned Operational Employment Date in the second half of the decade, in order to avoid any gap in front-line capability or extra costs to the Ministry of Defence.

The Eurofighter partners are Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain who have ordered a total of 620 aircraft, with the first production tranche of 148 jets running through to 2005. The second tranche begins in 2005 and the third in 2010.

Denmark to Join JSF Programme
Denmark will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday 28 May, to sign up to Lockheed Martin's JSF programme. It will be the third country to commit funds to the programme, spending some $150 million on the Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.

Denmark follows Canada as a 'Level 3' partner. This gives Denmark a foot in the door when subcontracting work is farmed out, an preferential treatment when the aircraft is released for sale to foreign governments.

The UK is the only 'Level 1' partner, having been involved from the beginning and putting $2 billion into the project last year.

Other countries expected to sign soon include Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey. The Netherlands was expected to make the decision earlier this month, but the then caretaker government delayed it until after the general election on 15 May, saying that the incoming government should make such an important choice.

Initial forecasts suggested that the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, together with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force could order some 3000 aircraft in three different variants. However, recently both the USAF and USN have begun reviews of their future requirements and that figure may be reduced. Estimates of the export potential of the aircraft have talked of a similar figure world-wide.

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