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A gold mine of new technologies: compared with the plethora of engineering developments and new technologies displayed at the recent Association of the United States Army exhibition in Washington, DC, the innovations of the Industrial Revolution are almost dulled to a quiet <> moment in some back-street laboratory.

The catch phrases of <<smaller, more powerful, quieter and autonomous>> were accompanied by every iteration of <<force protection>> one could have imagined. Hand-launched drones, hand-held tactical radios and combat language translators, wrist-worn communicators, tactical knives, lights and weapons with integrated fire control systems ... the list continues. One could wonder when all this kit will be woven into the autonomous drone systems and the soldier could stay home.

Speculation aside, a new breed of technological advances continues to appear--innovations that tend to catch those listening to product descriptions with their mouths agape. Today's soldiers are provided (or promised) equipment and weaponry that, if employed correctly, will help ensure most any combat or peacekeeping mission is a one-sided affair.

Size and Style

Blackwater, better known for its training of security personnel for deployment to combat-scarred regions, had a monster of an armoured personnel carrier hiding behind well-placed curtains in a far corner of the showroom floor. The Grizzly was designed with input from lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq with respect to mobility, armour and mine protection as well as troop comfort, safety and engagement capabilities. The Grizzly vehicle also features 16 roof-mounted, high-power spotlights and 400,000+ candle-power spotlights for 360[degrees] illumination. Series production of the Grizzly will begin in January 2007.

Also responding to the armour challenge was Ceradyne, which provided an example of the company's Flexkit modular armour that was designed to fit onto the Mack Trucks' Granite truck cab. The armour kit is installed by two crewmembers with no special tools or lifting devices--simply remove the doors and window frames, assemble the special framing structure onto the cab, insert the modular armour bricks. Done!

DRS Technologies was providing a quick release from the energy of the show floor for certain journalists and high-level executives by way of providing 'round-the-town' jaunts in the company's X-band on-the-move (Xotm) satellite antenna system demonstrator. Integrated into a Hummer , the recently-launched (February 2006) system offers a low-profile 18-inch dish solution (the company did let it slip that the "secret sauce" in this system is the dish choice) that provides continuous high-bandwidth voice, data and video on a moving land, sea or airborne platform built from commercial off-the-shelf components. No formal announcements for the system were made but DRS was planning to provide a briefing to US Cecom on the Xotm system.

In other DRS news the Tactical Systems division had recently delivered 25,000 rugged computer systems and display units to the US Army's Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) programme. Each system includes an M-class processor unit, a sunlight-readable twelve-inch touch-screen display and keyboard.

The Spotlite On ...

Where is the enemy? Rafael had the rather complex answer to that simple question with its electro-optical small arms firing detection solution, the Spotlite Mk II. The system uses a flir and a CCD camera, a laser rangefinder, laser marker, GPS, control station and sniper terminal to detect small arms muzzle flash, transfer the information to the sniper who engages the target. The flir imager senses a muzzle flash out to one kilometre, and then provides a lock location for the CCD camera, this information is transferred to the sniper in a head-mounted eyepiece or Toughbook computer. The GPS and laser rangefinder can track the target, also providing this information to the shooter. The electro-optical, control system and sniper can be separated by up to 300 metres and communicate through a wireless connection.

The Mk I system has been in the field with the Israeli forces for over one year, the Mk II has been in operation for about six months.

Rafael also produces an acoustic small arms detection system, called the Sads, which is in service with the US Marines and can be deployed mounted on a vehicle or in a man-portable configuration.

On the Brighter Side

Laser illumination is not a new development but the transition from red to green laser has become a focus of interest as they provide better contrast than red when used against green or black objects, and also provide better visibility in bright sunlight. B.E. Meyers displayed its [Gri.sub.2]p, a weapon mountable combination green and infrared laser system that functions as a day/night pointer or illuminator. The unit produces a 250-mW green and 1000-mW infrared laser beam with a 0.1-mrad convergence.

Overwatch Systems, which was recently acquired by Textron Systems for $ 325 million (pending regulatory approvals by end 2006), brought its Axis Pro intelligence analysis toolkit to the AUSA convention floor. Axis Pro is a suite of database visualisation tools, including data source management, dynamic charting, data mining, custom visualisation, advanced analysis tools and so forth. Suffice it so say that J Axis Pro allows analysts to locate and organise intelligence data and visualise possible results of a given scenario through patterns, trends and relationships.

ITT provided an in-depth technical review of the company's Spearnet communication system, which is based on the Meshnet waveform. The self-forming/self-healing, multi-path network uses a spread spectrum for a low probability of detection. A line-of-sight, multi-hopping network that defeats walls in the urban environment.

ITT had, earlier in the year, delivered 2300 Sincgars radios to the US Army's Communications Electronic Lifecycle Management Command under a $ 23.5 million contract. The radios are part of the Advanced Systems Improvement Program.

ITT also elaborated that, during British-led military trials in September 2005, ITT's Sincgars Radio-Based Combat Identification system (RBCI) proved its worth when it halted 44 calls-for-fire, as they would have resulted in fratricide incidents. The system provides an interrogation signal to a target area, and RBCI-equipped Sincgars radios in the area will respond, providing proof that some of the good guys could be in harm's way. With around 310,000 Sincgars delivered to the US armed forces, the chances are that an RBCI interrogation could save some US and coalition lives.

Promoting a new man-pack radio, Harris had set-up a network centre to demonstrate the RF-300M-MP's integration within an adaptive network. The RF-300M joins the ever-growing family of Falcon III radio systems as a wide-band, multi-band, multi-mission manpack radio providing high-speed networked data, and simultaneous voice and video over the 30 MHz to 2 GHz frequency range. The radio is being billed as the companion to the AN/PRC-152(C) hand-held and operates in Sincgars, Havequick and Satcom modes. Harris is expecting the unit to be certified by the NSA for Type 1 encryption by mid-2007.

FCS Programme Update

As the capstone US Army modernisation activity, the Future Combat Systems (FCS) programme continued to receive considerable attention at the AUSA meeting.

The FCS programme consists of 18 manned and unmanned systems, including: Infantry Carrier Vehicle, Command and Control Vehicle, Mounted Combat System: Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicle, Non-Line of Sight-Cannon (NlosC), Non-Line of Sight-Mortar: FCS Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle, Medical Treatment and Evacuation, Unattended ground sensors (UGS), Non-Line of Sight-Launch System (NlosLS), Intelligent Munitions System (IMS), Four classes (Classes I through IV) of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) organic to platoon, company, battalion and brigade combat team echelons, Armed Robotic Vehicle (ARV), Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) and Multifunctional Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle (Mule). These systems and platforms are linked together by a common distributed network known as the System of Systems Common Operating Environment (Soscoe), resulting in a commonly used <<18+1>> equation to describe the system.

Government and industry programme participants referenced the previous day's panel chaired by General William Wallace, Commanding General of US Army Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc), noting that Tradoc comments focused on the needs of soldiers, with one of those being the need to have <<battle command on-the-move out to the tactical edge.>> Tradoc pointed to the FCS 18+1 equation as providing the core of that network capability across future platforms as well as to the current force where those capabilities make sense.

As an example of network development the general said that the programme has taken delivery of more than three million lines of software since February.

In parallel with network development, it was also noted that the designs of the family of manned ground vehicles are continuing to mature with 75 to 80% common components across the variants. Each of the manned variants underwent System Functional Review over the past six months and all have now moved into preliminary design phases.

Counting the manned ground vehicles, the FCS programme has completed 14 functional reviews across its 18 platforms over the last six months, which has culminated in the programme's Initial Preliminary Design Review in August 2006.

Programme participants referred to the successful completion of that review as the <<number one system of systems technical milestone for 2006>>.

Other significant FCS programme milestones during 2006 included: completing of the first integrated mission test at the FCS System of Systems Integration Lab in Huntington Beach, California. the March completion of transition to a Far-based contract, designation of the new FCS Evaluation Brigade Combat Team (EBCT) at Fort Bliss, Texas, the April participation in JEFX '06; and the May completion of Office of Secretary of Defense/Joint Staff Review of the programme.

On the hardware side, BAE Systems roiled out the first Nlos-C firing platform at the end of September and it is now at Yuma Proving Ground for firing tests.

Early FCS capabilities--including eight Joint Tactical Radio System Ground Mobile Radios--are participating in Field Experiment 1.1, near Fort Bliss, Texas.

Fort Bliss will also witness the official stand-up of the FCS EBCT in March of next year, with the unit slowly expanding from 200 soldiers by the end of next summer to a total of 937 soldiers by September 2008. In addition to serving as the test and evaluation element for four sequential FCS technology 'spinouts' to current force elements, long term plans call for the EBCT to serve as the first pure FCS-equipped modular brigade with initial operating capability in 2015 and full operational capability in 2017.

Keeping the Fluids Flowing

For all the soldiers on the go who are constantly looking for a place to refill their hydration system Camelbak has produced its 25-1itre refill station, called the 'Squadbak, that can refill three bags simultaneously; two through the company's proprietary Hydrolink connection system (red arrows). The unit itself can be refilled with a regular garden hose (which can also be used to refill a smaller personal unit). The dress code for operating this system is traditionally BDUs--kilts usually being reserved for the Scottish Highlanders.
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Title Annotation:Shows & Exhibitions
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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