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Size does matter: the annual autumn gathering of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in October 2005 proved that the US military remains flexible in the rather fluid birth and demise of defence programmes. Many larger projects draw the obvious observers and 'wish list' crowds, but it is the smaller innovations that are beginning to catch more attention.

Tradition dictates that the floor-covering behemoths with tracks or wheels, the rotor blades that make people duck and stare and the recorded muzzle blasts, flashing lights and loud patriotic music blaring from a half-acre display attract most of the visitors, but the miniaturisation of electronics and the melding of technologies has turned much of the focus onto the smaller booths from companies providing new equipment and developments.

Sounds About Right

ITT took a moment to brief Armada editors on the company's dedicated control unit for the ARC-201 Sincgars family of airborne radios--the ERCDU (Export Radio Control Display Unit). The first production unit was on display, one of which both the US and British forces will have trialled (and decided on) by the time these lines are read.

ITT's John Kirkwood spoofed the author with the trivia question of who invented frequency hopping, the answer of which was surprising, to say the least. In 1940 Hollywood actress Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was actually discussing the human gland system with music composer George Antheil--she was interested in how she could enlarge her breasts (bit ahead of her time). The discussion turned to radio control for torpedoes and the actress, more commonly known as Hedy Lamarr, mentioned her idea for frequency hopping. The two patented the idea in 1942 but the US Navy rejected their idea, which wasn't used by the US military until the 1962 Cuban blockade--three years after their patent had expired.

Z Microsystems displayed its rack-mounted Command Console S--a stowable unit that features a rugged, ultra-slim keyboard and LCD monitor. The latter offers an 18.1-inch picture stretching over 1280 x 1024 pixels, while the full-size keyboard and its track ball are watertight. The workstation, which fits into any 19-inch Retma rack or transit case, folds away for storage and transportation. A neat articulated arm, which remains invisible to the user, tidily encloses all cables and connectors.

Heat dissipation is a subject of concern for all electronic component developers. One solution is to use injected liquid cooling, an area where the company Spraycool has taken a leading position.

The concept calls for the atomisation of an inert, nonconducting, non-corrosive liquid, which, by the way, boils at room temperature, and spraying this fine mist directly onto the processors and printed circuits to lower their temperature in a heat transfer that turns the liquid to a gas. The gas is circulated though the closed-circuit system to be condensed back into a liquid state in a reservoir, atomised and sprayed again. This type of hermetically sealed system loses around 50 per cent of its fluid in five years.

Spraycool had just announced the signing of a strategic contract with Boeing, Cessna and the WSU National Institute for Aviation and Research to support the development of next-generation common thermal management systems for the US Air Force's current and future aircraft. The company also entered into a strategic alliance with Smiths Aerospace in an effort to be selected for next-generation military and civilian electronics programmes.

Teac brought news of the first shipment of its Airborne Mission Data Recorders (MDR) for the US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters fitted with Arrowhead flit systems. Under the contract Teac will continue to deliver MDR units to the Army through 2006, and at time of interview three brigades of Apaches had been MDR equipped.

Also on stage was Teac's new dual monitor portable debrief station--the Digital Debrief Station Dual Monitor--which was designed for the after-action-review of multiple-channel video recordings. The ruggedised compact computing system is application-specific to Teac's Mission Data Debrief software and offers a 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 processor and a storage capacity up to 250 GB.

Ampex, for its part, was also offering a solid-state recording solution in its DSRs 400B, which features a 500 BG capacity. The unit was developed for platforms with limited space and power to spare.

Airborne image recording from E/O, infrared and Sar sensors as well as telemetry data acquisition, elint/comint data and acoustic sonar cover a few of the DSRs 400B applications.

Cubic had recently been awarded an additional $ 6.1 million from Darpa for a 15-month, second-phase research and development contract covering Cubic's Dynamic Optical Tags (Dot) programme. The Dots is a laser-based system that allows long-range, two-way covert data exchange in tactical/hostile environments in an effort to reduce fratricide.

The system, which consists of a laser transmitter and a sensor (together about the size of a matchbook), is mounted on a rifle or combat vehicle to provide an exchange of information whenever queried; including range and other digital data. Darpa is currently promoting a broadened spectrum of applications for the system.

Sight at Night

Night Vision Equipment Company (Nvec), a DRS-owned company, demonstrated its Cobra-IR handheld/tripod-mounted sensor system that includes a high-resolution infrared camera and a low-light video camera. The Cobra-IR can be used in hand-held or periscope mode--the latter facilitating overbarrier or around corner viewing while under cover. The show was the system's debut venue and enjoyed a warm reception.

Stowable in a BDU cargo pocket, the Cobra extents to 18 inches and twists, bends and articulates in a variety of positions to fit the application. At a spartan 850 grams, the system features an Oled display, white-hot polarity, a spectral response of 8 to 12-[micro] and a 36 x 27 field-of view. Thermal and video sensitivity are ~85 mK and .0003 lux respectively.

The US Marine Corps purchased a small quantity of the Cobra-IR units in September 2005 for field-testing with no word at time of writing on a purchase decision.

IEC Infrared Systems was promoting its NightStalkIR all-weather tactical surveillance system--a marriage of DRS Technologies' VOx uncooled micro-bolometer thermal imager with IEC's proprietary signal processing and electronics.

The NightStalkIR system can be configured for fixed, vehicle mount or drop-deployable applications and features either a 320 x 240 or a 640 x 480-pixel infrared imager with multiple lens options. Other options include AC power input and either wireless or encrypted fibre-optic video and data transmission capabilities, a laser illuminator/designator, GPS, compass and laser rangefinder.

The SOF Combat Assault Rifle (Scar), according to FN Herstal, is under a continued-development contract from the US Special Operations Command. The Scar, an innovative weapon designed by FN from scratch, is being developed in a light and heavy version (5.56/7.62 respectively) with both long sniper and short assault barrels, which can be changed on weapons of the same calibre.

All weapon controls are identical across the calibres and an enhanced grenade launcher module can be attached to the lower Picatinny rail (see photo). The grenade launcher features an optional shoulder stock for stand-alone use. The Scar, operated by a short-stroke gas piston, features a folding stock and is capable of a 550-round/min rate-of-fire.

Down to the Ground

It sometimes seems that a dog's life is one of comfort and carelessness--but not if Complete Parachute Solutions (CPS) has its say. CPS is a consortium of three specialised parachute manufacture companies that provide a complete line of military ram air parachute training and equipment. The companies, Performance Designs, Sun Path Products and Relative Workshop, provide specialised jump gear and instruction for special operations teams, jump masters/ instructors and other military units. One recent contract to the tune of between $ six and eight million was awarded by the US Air Force Pararescue teams for the Special Operations Vector HH parachute system.

From the Ground, Up

Teledyne Brown Engineering was rejoicing over its recent win in class III (battalion commander asset) of the FCS programme for the company's new Prospector drone. Having partnered with Germany's Rheinmetall, Teledyne is marketing the KZO as the Prospector--and Rheinmetall's Taifun as the Thunder drone--in the US market.

The company had also on display its MTTCS concept--the Multipurpose Troop Transport Carrier System--which is an armoured transport 'box' with 14 firing ports and two topside gun mounts that provides soldier protection against small arms up to 7.62 armour piercing rounds and improvised explosive device fragments. The aluminium-framed system with built-on ceramic shelter has been deployed and field-tested in Iraq.

Teledyne Brown Engineering was, at time of interview, awaiting an Army requirement for the system. As for international interest, both the Czech Republic and Germany had voiced strong interest during the first day of the AUSA Exhibition.

Improvised explosive devices have become a strong topic for discussion and Hutchinson had something very positive to say in response. The company displayed two wheels for an FMTV that were subjected to a six-kg landmine test in August 2005. One was a 62-kg steel wheel, the other a 36-kg aluminium version. The aluminium version not only survived the blast as a hands-down winner, but even the central tyre inflation system was 'mostly' intact.

These test results are under closer examination and Hutchinson is now strongly promoting its mine-ready solution for combat vehicles.

Israel Military Industries showcased the new Wildcat wheeled armoured vehicle it developed in conjunction with ATC. Based on a design by Tatra, the Wildcat is available with three levels of armour protection: basic against 7.62 mm AP, level two for up to 14.5 mm AP and level three that protects against RPG and other shoulder-launched missile attacks. The chassis is protected against mines and improvised explosive devices.

The Wildcat is C-130 transportable and has high cross-country and on-road manoeuvrability.

Lockheed Martin was promoting what one representative coined "The power of 3D imaging"--this in conjunction with a very in-depth exclusive briefing to the author concerning the Loitering Attack Munition (Lam) and its ladar imager. The Lam is to be an expendable loitering hunter-killer missile with a ladar seeker and automatic target recognition capability.

The company's Glen Kuller, director Netted Fires Tactical Missiles, explained that Lockheed's ladar imager shoots a laser beam to each spot on an imaging grid, then measures the distance to each spot. The result is a point-perfect image that ignores light levels--in other words, no hiding anything in the shade or under a camouflage net.

The missile gathers information and returns data packets in 30 to 50 kb chiplets that are 'high-confident' viewable 3D images.

Giving them Scars

The SOF Combat Assault Rifle from FN Herstal USA is being developed in both light (5.56 mm) and heavy (7.62 mm) variants (light version shown). The US Special Operations Command has issued a contract to the company for further development with engineering test units expected by late-2006.

Bringing One's Best Friend Down

Complete Parachute Solutions highlighted its custom canine team attachment for the Vector parachute system. A dog handler can now safely jump into an area where needed with the animal attached to his or her rig--freefalling and landing with the hound belly-strapped in and quickly released once on the ground. The company provides a complete training course for both trainer and dog. (Armada/JK)
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Title Annotation:Shows & Exhibitions
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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