Air Force Signs $26.3 million Contact with Lockheed Martin to Arm Jets With Lasers


By Debbie Gregory.

If Lockheed Martin is able to deliver on its laser weapon system in development, the U.S. Air Force may boast a fleet of fighter jets that can shoot lasers from a small, compact cannon.

As part of the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE program ) the $26.3 million contract with the Air Force Research Lab should result in a weapon system that is not only compact, but also light enough to be mounted on fighter jets.

Currently, most of these systems are limited to ground and sea use due to their weight and size. Such is the case for the ground vehicle–mounted system that Lockheed Martin just delivered to the U.S. Army that can burn through tanks and knock mortars out of the sky.

Lockheed Martin will be adapting the system it developed for the Army to address the challenge of self-protection against ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

The program’s work will be divided among three subsystems: the Shield Turret Research in Aero Effects (Strafe) includes the beam control system; the Laser Pod Research and Development (LPRD) will power and cool the laser on the fighter jet; and finally, the LANCE laser itself.

“The ability of a helicopter or bomber or fighter jet to shoot down or sufficiently damage or distract an incoming missile could allow them to operate in places they haven’t been able to operate recently,” said military analyst Peter Singer.

Raytheon became the first company to destroy a target with a laser fired from a helicopter at White Sands Missile Range when an Apache AH-64 shot a truck from more than a mile away. Raytheon is also building a laser-firing, drone-killing dune buggy. Boeing has its own anti-drone laser cannon.

Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin plans to test a high-energy laser weapon mounted on a fighter jet by 2021.


Next Generation Bullets- Will They Hit Moving Targets?


By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is looking to takes bullets and mortar shells to the next level: hitting a moving target. For example, a bullet that would be able to change its trajectory, scale a wall and hit the target hiding behind it would be the ideal.

A maneuverable projectile that could continuously adjust its trajectory could offer numerous benefits, such as “extreme range extension, enhanced maneuver authority, and increased trajectory shaping. The challenge is building small projectiles with actuators that can withstand being shot out of a gun.

Some actuators can survive being launched from artillery pieces that impart a force of 20,000 times the force of gravity. But direct fire weapons can impose bigger stresses: the electromagnetic railguns that the U.S. military is developing, for example, impart a force of 60,000 times gravity.

The Army will more than likely turn the project over to a defense contractor, such as Lockheed Martin or Raytheon.

Raytheon already has skin in the guided artillery game – the company’s Excalibur shells are guided by external fins that pop out after firing. But these shells, shot indirectly from miles away, are really suited to hit stationary targets. Regular artillery shells have an accuracy of landing about 650 feet from the target, according to the army. The M1156 guidance kit, which can be fitted to turn regular shells into smart shells, has an accuracy of 165 feet, while even an Excalibur shell still has an accuracy of sixty-five feet from the target.

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Pentagon Works to Disable Drones

The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (Courtesy photo)

By Debbie Gregory.

To the military, they are  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). But they are more commonly known as drones.

Drones have an array of applications ranging from being mere hobby gadgets to their increasing use in professional photography and cinematography, intelligence, mapping, reconnaissance as well as target destination besides being used in rescue missions.

Drones are used in military situations where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult, and often times are used as weapons with the ability to drop explosives.

Although helpful on the battlefield, drones also present a clear and present danger to our troops when they are in the hands of the enemy.

Stopping the drones has become a challenge for the Pentagon and its allies.

To that end, the Pentagon is working to develop lasers and microwaves to eliminate enemy drones in the sky.

Some soldiers are equipped with “anti-drone” rifles that use pulses across radio frequencies to interfere with the vehicles’ controls.

As terrorists move to drones as their weapon of choice, the Pentagon agency called the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) is working with defense companies to develop counter-drone strategies, including lasers and microwaves to blast drones from the sky.

While France and Holland are training eagles and other birds of prey to attack enemy drones, Raytheon is mounting a high-energy laser weapon on top of a militarized dune buggy to take out drones. Raytheon also has “the Phaser”, a high-powered microwave cannon that can scramble a drone’s avionics.

CACI is developing “SkyTracker” to find and track drones using radio frequencies. And Lockheed Martin has “Athena”, a laser capable of destroying the tail of a fixed-wing drone.

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Air Force Submits Wish List to Congress

(Lockheed Martin) Biz10-LMT-020816

By Debbie Gregory.

Congress asks for unfunded lists from each service on an annual basis. The documents help guide lawmakers as they work through the budget requests and form policy and spending bills. The Air Force’s $10.7 billion unfunded priorities “wish list” submitted to Capitol Hill last month is heavy on research and development, but it also includes buying more aircraft , specifically F-35s and KC-46s.

Some $70 million would be earmarked to develop a “high power microwave weapon capable of multi-shot, multi-target ability to knock out digital electronic systems with low or no collateral damage and within anti-access area-denial environments.” A hypersonic prototype “to accelerate a Time Sensitive Target Engagement” also made the list.

The service has also planned $8 million for a light attack aircraft. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, as well as other top officials have endorsed the flight demo as a way to test whether a buy of inexpensive aircraft can help the force better meet readiness challenges.

The Air Force included 14  F-35A joint strike, three KC-46As, 12 MC-130Js, as well as one additional HC-130.

The EC-130H Compass Call program is based on an electronic attack aircraft, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. The aircraft is heavily modified to disrupt enemy command and control communications, perform offensive counter-information operations, and do other kinds of electronic attack. To keep the Compass Call program on track, the Air Force would need an additional $284.6 million for a number of initiatives. About $30 million would go to extend the life of the current EC-130H aircraft because the replacement program lags behind schedule.

The wish list also includes $131.6 million for various modifications for fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets.

The wish list included $360 million for nuclear deterrence operations, with nuclear command, control and communications emerging as a priority, and $563 million for cyberspace needs.

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Lockheed Martin Exec a Possible VA Secretary Nominee


By Debbie Gregory.

President-elect Trump may be considering Lockheed Martin Senior Vice President Leo Mackay, Jr. to fill one of the few remaining cabinet posts, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump has publicly sparred with Lockheed Martin in the past few weeks, arguing that the defense contractor wastes billions in tax dollars building F-35 fighter jets that are behind schedule and over-budget.

Mackay, who served as deputy VA secretary under President George W. Bush, met with the president-elect, and said that he and Trump had a “good discussion.”

He added that “things are progressing; we’ll keep having a conversation.”

“The president-elect is up on the issues and very concerned about the department and veterans issues,” Mackay said. “He’s a first-class veterans advocate and we had a good conversation.”

Other rumored contenders have included former Sen. Scott Brown, former House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller and Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth, who helped grow Concerned Veterans for America into an influential veterans’ advocacy group.

A 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Mackay was born into a military family in San Antonio, Texas and grew up on, and around, military installations. He lived in Japan as a child and spent two years of high school in Tehran, Iran. He served in the Navy as a naval aviator. He completed pilot training in 1985, graduating at the top of his class. He spent three years in Fighter Squadron Eleven flying the F-14, attended Fighter Weapons School (Topgun), and compiled 235 carrier landings and 1,000 hours in the F-14. He also served as an instructor at the Naval Academy

The VA secretary search carries unusual significance for the Trump team given how intensely the president-elect focused on veterans issues during his campaign.

Trump regularly blasted the VA as a prime example of the Obama administration’s failures, especially when whistleblowers exposed the agency’s nationwide use of fake patient waiting lists to conceal long delays in health care in 2014.

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Planned Space Weapon Could Destroy Multiple Nuclear Missiles


By Debbie Gregory.

A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a ballistic missile payload space weapon containing several warheads, each capable of being aimed to hit one of a group of targets.

More countries have or are developing long-range missile technology, including systems that can carry MIRVs and/or decoys.

Last year, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded contracts to Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing to begin designing what is known as a “Multi-Object Kill Vehicle” or MOKV, which could destroy several objects in space with a single launch. Raytheon’s contract was for $9,775,608.

This program is similar to an earlier program that had been terminated.

Design work on the MOKV kill vehicle concept has been underway at Raytheon’s Advanced Missile Systems, an industry-leading technology and innovation hub.

Raytheon’s plan, which is scheduled for a concept review in December, is to load multiple MOKVs onto a single missile for launch. Each MOKV would be outfitted with multiple sensors, a steering and propulsion system and communications equipment that will allow them to hone in on an individual target and hit it, destroying the object by sheer kinetic forces.

The points of impact would take place beyond Earth’s atmosphere, but on a trajectory that would send the resulting cloud of debris back into the atmosphere, where it burn up.

A major technological challenge is figuring out how to differentiate between bombs and decoys, such as balloons that look like they might have a hydrogen bomb aboard.

The military hopes to begin proof-of-concept demonstrations late next year and a non-intercept flight test in 2018. If successful, the Missile Defense Agency would conduct an intercept test in 2019.

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Air Force General Optimistic Regarding the F-35 Program


By Debbie Gregory.

The F-35 program, the most expensive weapons system ever made, has had a rough couple weeks. In September, a ground fire during training and a supply issue led the Air Force to suspend flight operations for 15 F-35As.

But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein isn’t worried. He said he was “very confident that we’re going to be getting this fixed.”

The faulty cooling lines affected a total of 57 aircraft. On Sept. 16, 15 of the F-35As were found to have faulty coolant line insulation, which had begun to peel. The additional 42 jets were in various stages of production.

The F-35 joint program office rolled out a retrofit plan for those jets, which involves cutting into the wings and removing the insulation from around the coolant lines and inside the fuel tank.

Then, on September 23rd, an F-35A burst into flames before takeoff during an exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The fire was extinguished and although the jet was damaged, the pilot was unharmed.

The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has delivered 108 F-35As. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the jets.

Of the 15 grounded aircraft already in the field, 10 had been declared combat ready, one was being used in testing, and the final four were for training, with two of those four training aircraft belonging to the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

The F-35A is the Air Force’s version of the jet. The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy will also have their own F-35 variants.

Neither of the Marines’ or Navy’s aircraft were affected.

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