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14 July 2016

Inzpired to qualitative assessment

“Innovation lies at the heart of our company: it is our fundamental premise,” says Hugh Griffiths, CEO of Inzpire, a small British company going places in a hurry in the training and mission support systems domain.

At Farnborough 2016 this week Inzpire revealed it was one of only two companies to have won phase 2 funding from the MoD’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) and the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC) for the Agile Immersive Mission Training competition. For the next 11 months the company will be working on developing their GHOST project – with which they successfully competed in the first phase of the CDE competition – to a higher technical readiness level.

GHOST focuses on moving quantitative forms of training and learning assessment to a more qualitative assessment process, enabling individuals, units and even entire forces to recognise and act upon the ‘lessons learned’ in almost any training environment – though the company admits that the initial optimum usage of GHOST will be in the synthetic environment.

Inzpire is a company that embraces an entirely military ethos and in something less than a decade has come from practical invisibility and “A Good Idea” to become a company with a sizeable turnover (some £11 million, according to Griffiths) and one in which over 80% of its staff – which enjoys a very low turnover rate – has a recent military background. “In aggregate, we have over a thousand years of relevant military and operational experience,” Griffiths told journalists during a briefing at Farnborough.

Showcased on the company’s exhibit was GECO (originally Graphical Electronic Cockpit Organiser), a mission support system and planning/rehearsal tool that achieved initial operating capability with the UK Puma Force earlier this year. Squadron Leader Chris Greenwood, second in command of 230 Squadron RAF, explained that Puma crews use GECO “for mission planning, navigation and as an alternative for all our airborne paper products.”

Housed on Panasonic tablets – a 7 inch display version for the flying pilot and a larger 10 inch version for the non flying pilot, GECO provides instant, intuitive and comprehensive situational awareness for an aircraft that currently has no moving map display but for which potential wire strikes are a significant safety hazard.

Inzpire’s customer base is largely UK centric currently, though the Royal Jordanian Air Force makes use of GECO in F-16 training. Griffiths, however, indicated the company, which is far from a ‘single product marvel,’ “will be going global very soon.” Which makes it a company to watch closely as it leverages considerable expertise – and carefully honed vision – in the training domain.

Photo shows Inzpire’s GECO in use in a Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16.

FIA2016: Airbus DS Wins UK Cryptographic Contracts

Airbus Defence and Space has been awarded three new contracts by the UK Ministry of Defence to provide cryptographic key management technology for three additional RAF platforms.

Already in use on RAF TYPHOONs and A400Ms, Airbus’ Local Key Management System (LKMS) will now be integrated on UK F-35B LIGHTNING IIs, C-130J HERCULES and the VOYAGER aerial tanker/transport.

LKMS handles and packages cryptographic keys so that they can be loaded to the recipient aircraft’s End Crypto Units using a single electronic fill gun prior to each individual mission. As well as reducing turnaround time between missions, use of the LKMS allows for extended out-of-area operations by storing and distributing multiple cryptographic keys, thus contributing to increased overall operational effectiveness and a reduction in the required footprint of support services.

FIA2016: Saab’s GLOBALEYE “strategic hub of future air forces”

Claiming several features as unique and ‘best of breed,’ Saab executives at Farnborough put enormous effort into briefing the characteristics, capabilities and compelling nature of the company’s all-new airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) solution – the GLOBALEYE.

They make a compelling case. As the threat envelope changes for security and defence forces and as governments pay more and more attention to detecting, deterring and defeating insidious as well as overt attacks on national security, so the number and nature of the agencies interested in accessing rapid and reliable intelligence from assets such as an AEW&C aircraft are broadening rapidly. “We think the military will of course be the primary customer for us in those nations we are in discussions with, but it is true to say that there are a much larger number of interested and influential parties now than there were only a decade ago,” said Lars Tossman, Head of the company’s Airborne Surveillance business.

Saab strongly believes the heritage it has in aircraft manufacturing, aerostructures and complex systems integration is a major asset that has underpinned the development of GLOBALEYE. Advanced radar technologies, the ability to highly leverage sensor data fusion and the capability to conduct surveillance in air, maritime and land domains – simultaneously – give the new aircraft an unassailable market edge, in the company’s view.

The powerful new ERIEYE ER (for Extended Range) radar lies at the heart of GLOBALEYE and gives the system greatly increased detection and tracking ranges, according to Airborne Surveillance Business Development executive Erik Winberg. Briefing journalists at Farnborough 2016 this week, he provided compelling evidence of the system’s powerful capability  to detect small aircraft at very low altitude, small marine targets (as small as jet-skis, for example) and moving ground targets in a seamless, integrated manner, providing operators with a highly accurate and reliable intelligence picture of an area of interest – in all weathers.

Launched at the Singapore Air Show in February, GLOBALEYE is based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet and combines ERIEYE with a maritime surveillance radar and five operator workstations to enable real time analysis of retrieved data. The platform offers operators “unparalleled endurance of up to 11 hours,” according to Winberg, and in the maritime role can detect objects down to the size of a submarine periscope at “tactically significant ranges.”

Stressing the ability the system features to operate independently and its flexible nature, allowing for changes in mission profile at short notice, Tossman called GLOBALEYE “the strategic hub of future air forces,” saying the combination of capabilities in a single platform makes the system unique.

Interestingly, though, when asked what the ‘secret sauce’ that underlies such a claim might be, Tossman did not fall back on technology, expertise or heritage. Instead, he put forward the view that “customer dialogue” is what sets the company’s solution apart from the competition. Saab has a strong reputation for being attentive and responsive to customer requirements and agile in formulating a graceful and customer-centric solution. Which explains why their products and services – ranging from combat aircraft to live training service solutions – continue to upset predictions time and time again.

GLOBALEYE needs to win several contracts in order to justify the company’s claims for it. But it would be a brave man who suggests this will not happen in the very near future.

FIA2016: Eurofighter capability enhancement update

At Farnborough 2016, Eurofighter and its partner companies provided a detailed update on the various strands of its update programmes for the TYPHOON, focusing on the trials taking place for radar and weapons.

Full integration of the E-SCAN radar has come a step closer with the successful completion of ground tests, which were carried out on a UK TYPHOON, Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 5. The results, which the company describes as achieving “detection and tracking of airborne targets at significant range,” have paved the way for flight testing, which has now begun at Warton. IPA 5 conducted a one hour test flight on 8 July and a second aircraft (IPA 8, based in Germany) is about to join the integration programme.

The trials programme is aimed at ensuring required capability levels for both radar and weapons systems in time for initial deliveries to Kuwait, TYPHOON’s eighth customer nation with 28 aircraft on order. Over the next three years the radar and weapons systems will be incrementally enhanced to reach the Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) standard required for that delivery to begin.

“The TYPHOON CAPTOR-E provides significantly more power than most competing system [and] combined with the fighter’s large nose aperture and the ability to move the radar antenna, the TYPHOON has a field of view of 200 degrees….the flight tests will show the discriminating advantages this will bring,” said Andrew Cowdery, Chairman of Euroradar.

On the weapons front, the MBDA BRIMSTONE precision strike missile has successfully completed an initial series of flight trials ahead of a live fire event from a TYPHOON next year. BRIMSTONE integration work moves TYPHOON closer to the P2E (which includes the MBDA STORM SHADOW cruise missile) and P3E standards, which will bring supplementary long range precision strike to the aircraft.

Additional firing trials have also been completed for the MBDA METEOR Beyond Visual Range AAM (BVRAAM). Completed in June using IPA 2 at the UK Hebrides range, the trials were aimed at expanding the weapon’s clearance envelope to validate the estimated results provided by modelling and simulation exercises.

Paul Smith, BAE Systems’ Aircrew Advisor, pointed to the combination of trials as part of the continued expansion of the aircraft’s capability. “We are continuing to significantly improve capability across the board and [the BRIMSTONE trials] lie at the heart of our air combat capability,” he said.

The companies gave examples of the way in which TYPHOON’s capability has been proven in operational conditions in recent months, especially in the Baltic Air Policing mission, in which operational tempo has increased considerably as tensions in Europe refuse to ease.

Although the focus at Farnborough was on the weapons and radar enhancements, additional ongoing programmes aimed at ensuring the avionics continue to bring advanced capability, lethality and survivability  to TYPHOON operators are just as crucial: especially work aimed at improving the defensive aids sub-system DASS. Flight tests of the LITENING IV targeting pod will commence next year, Smith indicated.

Of the total of 599 TYPHOONs currently on order, 483 have now been delivered, according to Smith, which have logged some 350,000 flight hours in service with 22 operational units.

FIA2016: US and UK strengthen cooperation in autonomous systems

UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne and US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall announced at Farnborough 14 July that the two nations have committed to a joint programme to accelerate the impact of robotic and autonomous systems on resupplying their armed forces.

Science and technology teams on both sides of the Atlantic have already spent six months developing innovative proposals to enhance capabilities in ‘the last mile’ of the defence resupply process. The final stage in transporting supplies to operational units, frequently in hazardous and challenging environments, can often be lengthy and tremendously dangerous for the personnel involved. The new programme – which will last for up to four years – is aimed at examining and proofing concepts that can reduce risk to personnel and accelerate, strengthen and secure the delivery of essential supplies.

A series of trials, involving unmanned air and ground systems, will begin in October 2017. The first iteration of the programme is likely to be demonstration of an autonomous truck convoy at the US Army’s Warfighting Assessment trials, the officials revealed. A final trial, in which a selected range of technologies will be brought together in an integrated, seamless systems, is scheduled for October 2019, they added.

Philip Dunne said: “Defence Science and Technology collaboration has been a core part of the special relationship with the US for over 75 years. Robotics and autonomous systems offer opportunities to operate in fundamentally different ways. This collaboration on assured resupply will put our nations at the forefront of future developments – allowing us to transform our approach to military logistics.”

Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall added: “This joint effort deepens bilateral defense Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation. The Third Offset is about insuring the competitive advantage of US forces and our allies and partners over the coming decades. Our collaboration will help grow our advantage in autonomous systems and human-machine collaboration and will help drive interoperability between US and UK systems into the future.”

Last year US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon challenged their departments to drive a collaborative approach on innovation between the US and UK. UK participation will be led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in partnership with the Army. In the US, work will be led by the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The US is also providing personnel and equipment in support of the demonstrations and experiments.

FIA2016: GDUK Delivers LINK 16 for Export AW159

General Dynamics Mission Systems–UK has worked closely with Leonardo Helicopters (previously known as AgustaWestland) to develop and integrate a LINK 16 datalink system for the first export variant of the AW159 Wildcat helicopter.

The advanced LINK 16 datalink system is one of the most advanced for a rotary platform, providing a full Command and Control surveillance solution.

In 2015, the LINK 16 system for the export variant of the AW159 helicopter successfully completed the Standard Conformance Test, which is a detailed, independent review of the datalink system conducted by a US military organisation, the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC).  This will allow the LINK 16 datalink equipped AW159 to join an open live network.

In recent months, the export variant of the AW159 helicopter has flown with an operational LINK 16 datalink system, and it has provided valuable feedback to the teams delivering the datalink system in terms of navigational accuracy and network stability.

FIA2016: Thales and Elettronica Strengthen EW Ties

Thales and Elettronica chose Farnborough this week to announce (and sign) a Memorandum of Understanding that will take both companies further forward in collaboration on joint development and marketing of their electronic warfare technologies. The two companies already have a long history of collaboration on programmes such as the Mirage 2000 aircraft and the HORIZON-class and FREMM frigates.

A perfect example of the benefits of this enhanced collaboration was revealed at the same time. The CYBELE airborne self-protection suite is a scalable system customisable for a wide variety of platforms, operational requirements and doctrines. Embodying an electronic warfare command and control (EWC2) system, CYBELE is aimed primarily at helicopters and transport aircraft, offering two levels of self-protection against surface- and air-launched threats.

The Enhanced level of protection provides an EWC2 capability that controls the laser warning, radar warning, IR missile warning and countermeasures systems as well as the SPARC expemdable active decoy, which will be available in 2017, according to the companies. The Expert level of protection adds electronic support measures, active jamming and directional IR countermeasures.