Robotic Vehicle. Israel’s Elbit Systems and unmanned ground vehicle start-up Roboteam said on Nov. 16 they have partnered on a new multi-payload 6×6 robotic vehicle, called Rook. The new platform “features unique design and built-in autonomy suite offering a combination of greater capacity, improved maneuverability and must-have on-field agility that are key for greater mission effectiveness,” the two companies wrote in a statement. Rook builds off the Probot 4×4 UGV system and weighs 1,200 kilograms with capability to carry payloads up to 1,200 kilograms.
ICEYE said on Nov. 18 the company has entered into a new cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, with the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Technical Center (SMDTC) to work on projects related to advancing new Earth observation technology. The joint research and development effort will specifically focus on low-cost, on-orbit, synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) related concepts, according to ICEYE, to include capabilities for imagery tasking and uplink, SAR satellite downlink and ground stations, image processing and image dissemination. “It’s our privilege to be the U.S. Army’s mission partner in this cooperative R&D effort. We look forward to working closely with SMDTC as we bring ICEYE’s first-of-its-kind capability to a variety of U.S. Army experiments and demonstrations,” Eric Jensen, president of ICEYE U.S., said in a statement.
Quantum Sensing. DARPA has awarded BAE Systems multiple development contracts to work on advancing quantum technology for radio frequency sensing, the company said on Nov. 17. BAE Systems said developments in the quantum sensing space could allow radars to be reduced in size while increasing “sensitivity and accessible bandwidth by several orders of magnitude.” The three awards from DARPA total $6.5 million. “While still in the early development phase, quantum sensing relies on fundamentally different physics than conventional antennas. This may allow us to circumvent traditional aperture design limits for sensitivity and size. As a result of these programs, BAE Systems’ FAST Labs will be at the forefront of quantum sensing to support the warfighter,” Julia MacDonough, product line director at BAE Systems, said in a statement.
Healy Returns. After a 22,000 mile, 133-day deployment circumventing North America, the Coast Guard’s sole medium polar icebreaker returned Nov. 20 to its Seattle homeport. The crew of the 420-foot Healy conducted oceanographic research in the high-latitudes, provided presence in the Arctic, participated in an international search and rescue exercise, mapped over 20,000 square kilometers of the seafloor, including 12,000 kilometers of previously unmapped regions, and conducted passing exercises with ships from the U.S. Navy, and the Canadian and Mexican navies. For the research work, the Healy hosted scientists from the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark.
…Polar Star Departs. The Polar Star, the Coast Guard’s lone operating heavy polar icebreaker, left its Seattle homeport on Nov. 13 on its 25th mission to Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze to resupply stations in support of the U.S. National Science Foundation. The 399-foot ship breaks ice, as much as 21-feet thick, to create a navigable channel for fuel and supply ships to reach McMurdo station, the largest of the Antarctic science stations and the logistics hub of America’s Antarctic program. In late 2020 and early 2021, the Polar Star conducted missions in waters near Alaska after a fire aboard the Healy in August 2020 forced the crew to abort its annual mission to the Arctic.
Young Gets the Nod. Shalanda Young, who was confirmed by the Senate in March as deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and has been acting as director of the budget office since then, was nominated by President Biden on Wednesday to be the OMB director. Young, a former Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, was confirmed for her current role by a vote of 63-47. Biden also nominated Nani Coloretti as deputy director. She is currently a senior vice president at the Urban Institute, which conducts economic and social policy research.
MQ-25. The Navy and Boeing conducted further ground tests of the test asset of the unmanned carrier-based tanker aircraft MQ-25A Stingray. The asset is named T-1 and the tests occurred at Chambers Field at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the service said on Nov. 22. “What we are doing today is deck handling. We have a system installed on the airplane that allows the aircraft to be engines up, power running and taxing by controllers on the deck,” Rick Schramm, the technical lead engineer material review board, said in a statement. He noted they were using painted lines to section areas of a carrier’s flight deck to test how the MQ-25 would be able to maneuver on the vessel.
ASQ-239. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $585 million modification on Nov. 24 to add scope to provide system integration engineering for development of the new ASQ-239 electronic warfare/countermeasures hardware for the F-35. This covers F-35s operated by the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and non-DoD participants. Work will mostly be split between Nashua, N.H. (66 percent) and Fort Worth, Texas (27.5 percent) and is expected to be finished by April 2026. At the time of award, DoD obligated $34 million in both FY ‘22 Air Force and Navy research, development, test and evaluation funds as well as $15 million in non-U.S. DoD participant funds for a total of about $83 million.
MK 48. The Navy awarded Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) a $124 million contract on Nov. 23 for production of MK 48 Mod 7 heavyweight torpedo afterbody/tailcones and warshot fuel tank torpedo equipment and support. DoD said the contract includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value of the contract to $1.1 billion. This combines purchases for the U.S. Navy, Australia and Taiwan under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Work will be split between Bedford, Ind. (80 percent) and Middletown, R.I. (20 percent) and is expected to be finished by July 2025. If all options are exercised the work will extend through January 2033. At the time of award, $97 million (81 percent) in fiscal year 2021 Navy weapons procurement funds and $22.5 million (19 percent) in FMS/Armaments Cooperative Program (ACP) were obligated. DoD said this was a competitively procured contract with only one offer received.
STP-3. The U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission is to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., on Dec. 5. The primary satellite on STP-3 is Northrop Grumman’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) to advance “warfighting capabilities by delivering operational nuclear detonation detection capabilities and demonstrating new space technologies in the areas of space domain awareness, weather, and laser communications,” Space Force said. “These updated capabilities proactively combat near peer threats by improving and expediting the intelligence provided to the warfighter.”
…Ride Along. The “rideshare” satellite on STP-3 is Northrop Grumman’s Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (LDPE-1). The LDPE launch series is to be “a ‘freight train to space’ for experiments and prototypes in geosynchronous Earth orbit,” Space Force said. “By rapidly placing multiple, diverse experimental payloads into this valuable orbit, LDPE provides critical data to inform future Space Force programs. More specifically, LDPE-1 hosts payloads that will advance technology concerning communications, space weather sensing, and space domain awareness.”
JADC2 Helos. Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 23 that it recently demonstrated “open architecture, in-flight connectivity capabilities for vertical lift platforms that will help the U.S. Army realize its vision for Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).” Featured in the demonstration was the company’s Mini-Communications, Navigation, and Identification (Mini-CNI) system to help enable Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Jenna Paukstis, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of communications solutions, said in a statement that the low size, weight and power (SWaP) Mini-CNI system “provides operational mission benefits including enhanced joint and coalition interoperability and networking, as well as the ability to continually deploy new capabilities at speed via Northrop Grumman’s Software Development Kit and Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) compliant system.” The company plans to test new features of Mini-CNI in the next year, including advanced low probability of intercept/low probability of denial communications and new MOSA functions.
Steppin’ Into the Twilight Zone. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Nov. 23 established an Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) within the DoD acquisition chief’s office “to synchronize efforts across the department and the broader U.S. government to detect, identify and attribute objects of interests in Special Use Airspace (SUA), and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security,” the Pentagon said. In a memorandum to senior DoD leaders, combatant commanders, heads of DoD agencies, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Hicks wrote that “the presence of unidentified aerial phenomena [UAP]…represents a potential safety of flight risk to aircrews and raises potential national security concerns.”
…99 Red Balloons. The AOIMSG is to be the successor to the U.S. Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. Between 2004 and 2021, the task force identified 144 reports of UAP from U.S. government sources, 80 with multiple sensors and 11 misses with piloted aircraft, according to a preliminary assessment in June by ODNI. “We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence,” ODNI said. “In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.” Explanations posited by ODNI for the UAP include airborne clutter, such as recreational drones, birds, plastic bags, and balloons; natural atmospheric phenomena, such as ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations; classified military and intelligence programs; and systems of potential adversaries, including China and Russia.