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June 20 2015

June 22, 2015

 


20 June 2015

Newswire

Blog URL https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/

 

United Technologies Plans to Shed Sikorsky Helicopter Unit

Industrial conglomerate has held talks with potential buyers but spinning off business remains an option


http://www.wsj.com/articles/united-technologies-plans-to-shed-sikorsky-helicopter-unit-1434352048

By Anjie Zheng

Updated June 15, 2015 3:35 a.m. ET

 

United Technologies Corp. said on Monday it plans to sell or spin off helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft by the end of the third quarter this year after a strategic review of the business.

“Our strategic review has confirmed that exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies,” said Gregory Hayes, UTC Chief Executive Officer.

The unit, best known as the maker of Black Hawk helicopters, is one of the largest suppliers in the sector, with $7.5 billion in sales in 2014. It is the main supplier of helicopters to the U.S. Defense Department.

UTC has been talking to potential buyers for Sikorsky, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal last month. Boeing Co. , Airbus Group NV and Lockheed Martin Corp. are among the companies exploring bids for Sikorsky or, alternatively, for a minority stake, some of the people said.

One sticking point of a potential sale is the tax bill. The corporate predecessor to United Technologies bought Sikorsky in 1929, meaning the gain from a sale could garner a large tax bill. As a result, United Technologies has previously said a spinoff was the most likely outcome.

Potential bidders and United Technologies might be able to get around the problem via a transaction called a Reverse Morris Trust, which would involve spinning off Sikorsky into a new joint venture in which a bidder would have a stake, some of the people said.

United Technologies’ decision on Sikorsky comes as the Paris Air Show opens its doors in the French capital, bringing together executives from around the world in one of the aerospace and defense industry’s biggest trade events.

“Sikorsky is the world’s premier helicopter company and through a series of strategic wins is well positioned for long-term growth,” Mr. Hayes said.

Splitting the business off from United Technologies would allow both to better focus on their core businesses, he said. “Over the coming weeks, we’ll determine whether a spinoff or direct sale is the best way to enhance Sikorsky’s long-term success and create the most value for customers and shareholders.”

United Technologies also makes and installs elevators, ventilation systems and air-conditioning units. The company said without Sikorsky, it expects sales of $58 billion to $59 billion and earnings a share of $6.35 to $6.55 in 2015. The decision to separate Sikorsky from UTC depends on board approval.

 

 

Bomber Contract Loser Won’t Lack Work, Air Force’s James Says

by Anthony Capaccio

June 15, 2015 — 12:00 AM EDT

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-15/bomber-contract-loser-won-t-lack-work-air-force-s-james-says

 

The loser in the U.S. Air Force’s multibillion-dollar competition for a new long-range bomber is likely to have enough future contracting opportunities to soften the blow, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is competing against a team of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. for the development and initial production of the bomber. The winner will probably be selected in August, James said in an interview.

“I know some commentators have said the contract award will significantly impact the industrial base,” she said, in her most extensive remarks on the largely classified program, but “there will be other aircraft competitions, certainly from the Air Force.”

Some analysts have questioned whether Northrop, in particular, would be shut out of combat aircraft production if it loses the competition. The new bomber will be the successor to the B-2, built by Northrop and first flown in 1989.

James said the Air Force expects to hold separate contract competitions later for bomber subsystems that aren’t directly tied to the development and initial production of the stealth aircraft. “We would anticipate that subsystems that are beyond the scope of” the coming contract “would be competed,” and “we are leaning forward on that,” she said.

In addition, James cited other planned programs, including the T-X trainer aircraft.

“So I don’t believe this award is going to be as detrimental to the industrial base as some have suggested,” said James, a former defense industry executive and aide to the House Armed Services Committee.

Noah Poponak, a New York-based analyst with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in a May 29 report that he expects Northrop to win the bomber contract and the T-X Trainer could go to Boeing. He rates Northrop a buy and Boeing a sell.

 

‘Missing Out’

While James may be downplaying the impact on the loser, “she would know more than us what” actions could be taken to help maintain the base of major contractors, said Douglas Rothacker, a Bloomberg Intelligence aerospace and defense analyst who’s followed the competition.

The loser “will be missing out on something like $9 billion to $10 billion of revenues annually at full-rate production based on our calculations, excluding maintenance,” and “the main concern is loss of technology edge for the loser,” he said.

Byron Callan, a defense analyst for Capital Alpha Partners in Washington, said in a June 2 note to clients that if Lockheed loses, it still has the F-35, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program.

A loss for Boeing could mean an exit from the combat aircraft business by 2020, although it retains the KC-46 tanker and P-8 Poseidon Navy reconnaissance aircraft, he said. The company gains most of its revenue from commercial aircraft.

 

Subcontracting Work

If Northrop loses, it still has subcontract work on the F-35, making parts of the jet’s fuselage and its 360-degree field-of-view system, Callan said. It also provides the aft and center fuselage for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F and makes the Global Hawk drone. Lawmakers have protected the pilotless aircraft from Pentagon attempts to kill it.

James said she’s grappling with how much detail to disclose on the costly bomber and the competition to build it. But she made it clear that she’s leaning against providing anything that could provide clues to adversaries about its advanced technology.

“We’re most worried about declassifying” what “I’m calling the crown jewels — the technical capabilities,” she said. “I think you will see more cost and acquisition information,” but “I don’t anticipate much more information regarding capabilities.”

 

Russians, Chinese

“Seems like every time we reveal something like that, the Russians or the Chinese pop up with something similar,” James said when asked whether she anticipated releasing an image or even a silhouette of the winning design.

That reticence was questioned by Rebecca Grant, who worked on the once super-secret B-2 in the 1990s and is now president of IRIS Independent Research in Washington, which works closely with the Air Force.

“Coca-Cola’s recipe is still secret, and we’re all fine with that, but don’t let the Air Force miss the chance to talk about the real technology advances in this bomber,” Grant said. “I want to see a photograph of a demonstrator, mock-up, model or at least an artist’s concept of both winner and loser.”

James said she’s mindful that she must disclose information to update the cost projection of $550 million per bomber, or $55 billion for a planned fleet of 100. That’s a 2010 estimate that hasn’t been adjusted for inflation and “does not include development costs,” she said.

 

Public Information

“I hope to be as transparent as possible,” James said. “We are acutely aware that the public will want as much information” as possible.”

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, said “a more realistic then-year estimate is around $800 million per-plane, assuming 100 planes are built,” he said, referring to current-dollar calculations.

The service needs to clarify whether the per-plane cost estimate includes engines and weapons, Callan said in an e-mail. It also should provide research and development costs through 2030, Callan said.

Investors and analysts also will want to know the winning team’s subcontractors, he said.

Asked the chances of a protest once the contract is awarded, James said, “We recognize that the stakes in this are quite high. We understand that companies have the right to protest.”

 

 

White House Orders Agencies To Beef Up Cyber Defenses ‘Immediately’

June 14, 2015 By Aliya Sternstein Nextgov

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/06/white-house-orders-agencies-beef-cyber-defenses-immediately/115231/?oref=d-river

 

The White House has directed all federal agencies to take a series of swift measures to lock down government systems, in the wake of a devastating hack that possibly delivered Chinese spies data that could compromise national security.

A summary of the steps released late Friday evening does not explicitly mention the data breach, which was discovered in April and made public last week. Records on more than 4 million current and former civilian agency and military employees were leaked during the incident, which struck the Office of Personnel Management.

It is believed a second, related attack may have victimized people holding security clearances and those who have been investigated to obtain such clearances.

“Recent events underscore the need to accelerate the administration’s cyber strategy and confront aggressive, persistent malicious actors that continue to target our nation’s cyber infrastructure,” Office of Management and Budget officials said in a statement. In addition to OPM, the White House, State Department, U.S. Postal Service were attacked by hackers over the past year.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott “recently launched” what officials are calling a 30-day cybersecurity sprint.

According to White House officials, the emergency procedures include:

“Immediately” deploying so-called indicators, or tell-tale signs of cybercrime operations, into agency anti-malware tools. Specifically, the indicators contain “priority threat-actor techniques, tactics and procedures” that should be used to scan systems and check logs.

Patching critical-level software holes “without delay.” Each week, agencies receive a list of these security vulnerabilities in the form of DHS Vulnerability Scan Reports.

Tightening technological controls and policies for “privileged users,” or staff with high-level access to systems. Agencies should cut the number of privileged users; limit the types of computer functions they can perform; restrict the duration of each user’s online sessions, presumably to prevent the extraction of large amounts of data; “and ensure that privileged user activities are logged and that such logs are reviewed regularly.”

Dramatically accelerating widespread use of of “multifactor authentication” or two-step ID checks. Passwords alone are insufficient access controls, officials said. Requiring personnel to log in with a smartcard or alternative form of ID can significantly reduce the chances adversaries will pierce federal networks, they added, stopping short of mandating multi-step ID checks.

Agencies must report on progress and problems complying with these procedures within 30 days.

Scott also has created a new task force, a “Cybersecurity Sprint Team,” to lead a month-long review of the federal government’s security hygiene practices. Team members include officials from OMB E-Gov Cyber, the National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

After the review is completed, more action plans will be distributed that will culminate in a “Federal Civilian Cybersecurity Strategy.”

Agencies have been slow to close vulnerabilities in the past. The mean time last year for an agency to deal with “high findings” flagged by vulnerability scans was 42 days, according to Performance.gov, a federal database that tracks progress in meeting goals. Malicious code was in at least one agency’s systems for 126 days. In addition, agencies waited more than two weeks between scans, according to the mean scores.

The federal government has been hit by a barrage of high-profile cyber assaults over the past year. Last March, hackers reportedly from China broke into some OPM databases containing information on security-clearances holders. Later, hackers breached unclassified networks at both the State Department and the White House.

 

Air Force offers buyouts, early outs to civilians

By Stephen Losey, Staff writer 3:44 p.m. EDT June 13, 2015

http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/careers/air-force/2015/06/13/air-force-offers-buyouts-early-outs-to-civilians/71068508/

 

The Air Force will start offering a third and final round of buyouts and early retirements to civilian employees on Monday.

In a Thursday release, the Air Force said the civilian cuts will help the service meet former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order to slash headquarters staffs by 20 percent.

The voluntary early retirement authority, or VERA, and voluntary separation incentive pay, or VSIP, will focus mainly on civilians assigned to Air Force headquarters. The early outs and buyouts are only for civilians and not for airmen.

The Air Force is using VERA and VSIP to avoid having to resort to reductions in force, or layoffs.

Civilians offered buyouts under HQ reduction plan

“As in past years, we will continue to offer voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary separation incentive pay to the maximum extent possible before we implement a reduction in force,” Debra Warner, the Air Force’s director of civilian force policy, said in the release. “The Air Force is committed to sustaining excellence, meeting fiscal requirements and minimizing negative impacts on our current permanent civilian workforce and their families.”

Beginning June 15, civilians will receive surveys from their local civilian personnel sections to gauge their interest in buyouts or early outs, and they must respond by June 26.

If approved, civilians must retire or separate no later than Sept. 30.

“Our civilians are an integral part of our force, and their contributions are instrumental in our mission success,” Warner said. “Our challenge, in a fiscally constrained environment, is to maintain the ready and capable civilian force today and a modern workforce tomorrow.”

 

 

What the OPM Hack Means for the Future of Warfare

June 14, 2015 By Adrienne LaFrance

The Atlantic

It’s not like government officials didn’t see the attack coming. The Office of Personnel Management has faced repeated hacking attempts—including an incident last year when Chinese hackers tried to steal tens of thousands of files about U.S. workers who had applied for top-secret security clearance. But a breach of federal data that was announced last month appears to be significantly worse than the federal government originally let on.

Hackers may have stolen personnel files for as many as 14 million people. That number, much larger than the actual federal workforce, suggests that the hack may have exposed the information about additional categories of individuals, such as family members or government contractors.

It’s also more than three times as many people as original reports suggested,according to The Hill and other outlets, citing officials who claim the attack originated in China.

Officials are still working to figure out whether the theft of data from the Office of Personnel Management may also include sensitive information about contract workers and family members of employees who underwent background checks. And it’s not clear whether hackers could use the data they have to identify U.S. spies or other intelligence personnel.

But it is clear that large-scale data theft is a major problem facing the United States. It has happened before and it will happen again.

In 2012, Verizon said that “state-affiliated actors” made up nearly one-fifth of the successful breaches it recorded that year. In 2013, hackers stole data about more than 100,000 people from the Department of Energy’s network. Officials in the United State blame China for years-long hacking attempts against the Veteran Affairs Department that began as early as 2010 and compromised more than 20 million people’s personal information. And even though the Office of Personnel Management had been hacked before, it appears the agency continued to be astonishingly lax about its own security. From The New York Times:

The agency did not possess an inventory of all the computer servers and devices with access to its networks, and did not require anyone gaining access to information from the outside to use the kind of basic authentication techniques that most Americans use for online banking. It did not regularly scan for vulnerabilities in the system, and found that 11 of the 47 computer systems that were supposed to be certified as safe for use last year were not “operating with a valid authorization.”

Fighting back against hackers at the government level, many experts say, will require agencies to fight back in real-time. “Like banks and technology companies, government agencies must move to a model that assumes hackers will always get in,” Michael A. Riley wrote for Bloomberg last week. “They’ll need to buy cutting-edge technologies that can detect intruders inside networks and eject them quickly, before the data is gone.”

Officials have warned that in addition to ignoring technical vulnerabilities, the United States hasn’t been forceful enough about deterring hackers. Several experts say the U.S. needs to be more aggressive about publicly reporting the scope of hacking attempts as well as identifying and punishing those who steal government data. The authors of a 2013 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property argued that laws should be rewritten to give the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and law enforcement agencies the authority to use “threat-based deterrence systems that operate at network speed” to fight back against unauthorized intrusions into national security and critical infrastructure networks.

“These conditions cannot be allowed to fester,” the authors of the report wrote. “China has taken aggressive private and public actions that are inflicting major damage to the American economy and national security. Robust and swift action must be taken by the U.S. government.”

Such deterrence systems could mean targeting hackers with some of their own weapons: government-sanctioned malware or ransomware, software that locks down a computer without a user’s consent—a tactic that the U.S. government has already explored. As The Intercept reported last year, top-secret files in the trove of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency was “dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale,” including infecting millions of computers across the globe with malware.

The concern is that the government will be able to justify its own covert hacking infrastructure by focusing on the threat of data theft from foreign governments—only to then use malware implants as mass surveillance tools against U.S. citizens.

The military, meanwhile, is beginning to explore what operational readiness and a “traditional war-fighting perspective” might look like when it’s adapted for a post-Cold War digital world. “There are more questions than answers,” wrote the authors of a 2013 Air Force Research Institute report about deterrence in the Internet age. “Organizing to fight through cyber attacks not only prepares the United States to operate under duress, but sends a strong deterrence message to potential adversaries.”

What remains to be seen is the extent to which old military models can even be useful in a new environment. The authors of the Air Force report argue that “human nature has not changed, making fear, honor, and interest no less drivers of human action today than they were in the time of Thucydides.” But the players in an emerging global power struggle that will largely take place online are all new, and they’re using tools that the U.S. government still doesn’t seem to understand.

 

 

Drones Take Over America’s War on ISIS

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/17/the-war-on-isis-is-a-drone-war.html

06.17.155:15 AM ET

Unlike wars from even a few years back, drones and their pilots are now ‘involved in pretty much every’ strike, their commander tells The Daily Beast.

 

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada — Twenty years after the U.S. Air Force deployed its first Predator spy drone—and 14 years since the missile-armed, flying robot killed its first human victim—the lethal, flying robot finally has a conflict to call its own.

More than any previous war, the U.S.-led assault on ISIS is being waged by drones. And that’s both a point of pride and a problem for the relatively small and badly overworked group of airmen who fly and repair the remotely piloted warplanes.

Since launching Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS militants last August, the United States military and its allies have conducted more than 3,800 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, dropping or firing no fewer than 15,000 bombs and missiles, according to Defense Department statistics from late May.

Predator drones and their larger cousins the Reapers, carrying 100-pound Hellfire missiles and 500-pound precision-guided bombs, have accounted for 875 of those airstrikes, officials at the Air Force’s main drone base in Nevada tell The Daily Beast. And on the raids where manned planes hauled the weapons, the Predators and Reapers have played a vital supporting role.

 

 

 

 

“We’re involved in pretty much every engagement,” says Col. James Cluff, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base just north of Las Vegas. The 432nd’s nearly 4,000 people operate the majority of the Air Force’s roughly 300 Predators and Reapers. For ops in Iraq and Syria, small crews launch and land the drones from a base in Kuwait.

Once the ‘bots are airborne, operators at Creech and other bases in the United States take control of the drones via Ku-band satellite, scanning the ground below through sophisticated cameras packed in ball-shaped turrets under the drones’ noses.

Even with weapons underwing, a Predator or Reaper can stay airborne for more than 12 hours, thanks to its lightweight airframe made from fabric-like carbon composites and its fuel-efficient, rear-mounted propeller engine.

The drones have been American leaders’ favorite surveillance tool since the Bosnia war in 1995. The remote-controlled warplanes grew even more popular after the Air Force added weapons in 2001. But Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria is, in many ways, the perfect war for the high-tech drones.

That’s because President Obama has forbidden the thousands of U.S. advisers in Iraq from getting close to the front lines. In previous conflicts, the Air Force, Army, and Marines were able to send specially trained spotters right up to the front lines to help direct warplanes to their targets. Manned planes over Iraq and Syria rely mostly on Predators and Reapers to guide them.

The drones lent their assistance from the start of Inherent Resolve. ISIS militants had surrounded tens of thousands of civilians from the Yazidi minority group on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq and threatened to exterminate them. One of the Pentagon’s first actions was to send C-17 cargo planes to drop food and water to the civilians, and weapons and ammo to the mountain’s militia defenders.

But with no Americans on the ground to scout out the terrain, the C-17s were flying blind. So Creech’s remote air warriors sent in their drones to pinpoint the Yazidis and track each parachute-rigged bundle the C-17s dropped, all to “ensure the supplies reached the people who needed it,” says Col. Julian Cheater, a senior officer at Creech.

After ISIS pulled back from Mount Sinjar and the Yazidis evacuated, the Predators and Reapers switched to what the Air Force calls “buddy-lasing.” Flying ahead of the fighters and bombers, the drones spotted militant forces with their cameras then hit them with invisible, low-power lasers. The manned warplanes lobbed precision-guided bombs that followed the drones’ lasers right onto the militants’ heads.

Most of the thousands of air raids the United States and its allies have launched since August have involved Predators or Reapers spotting or lasing targets, making the flying robots the war’s indispensible weapons.

Cluff, Cheater, and the other top officers at Creech are proud of their airmen’s leading role in Iraq and Syria and, in an unusual move for the traditionally secretive drone force, even invited reporters to the desert base this week. But the drone leaders say they’re worried, too—their airmen are overworked. “Some of them have flown in combat for three, four, five years straight,” Cluff points out.

Fighter and bomber squadrons deploy overseas for six months then return home and take a break. But because most of them can work via satellite from Creech and commute home when they’re off-duty, during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, the drone operators fell into a military version of a nine-to-five routine, flying surveillance missions, buddy-lasing, and launching Hellfires five days a week, week after week, year after year without meaningful rest.

A year ago, Creech’s Predator and Reaper crews were looking forward to a break as the wars wound down. “Then ISIS happened,” Cluff says. “We never saw a lull.”

Drone crews have always worked hard. But now they’re busier than ever waging the first war they can truly claim to own. “There’s insatiable demand,” Cluff laments. And with his drone crews at the breaking point, the colonel says he and other commanders have no choice but to cut back on the number of Predators and Reapers they keep in the air at any given moment—from 65 to 60.

It’s the first time in the 20-year history of modern drones that the Air Force has reduced, rather than expanded, its robotic ops. At the peak of their military prowess, leading an intensive air war over Iraq and Syria, America’s Predator and Reaper crews insist on a little relief.

 

 

Amazon insists federal rules apply to U.S. deliveries by drone

 

by Press • 17 June 2015

http://www.suasnews.com/2015/06/36620/amazon-insists-federal-rules-apply-to-u-s-deliveries-by-drone/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=e6c46deffb-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-e6c46deffb-303662705

Reuters WASHINGTON | BY DAVID MORGAN

 

Amazon.com, seeking to bolster its efforts to deliver products via drone, said on Tuesday that states and local communities should not be allowed to regulate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) authorized by federal aviation regulators.

“Uniform federal rules must apply,” Paul Misener, the e-commerce retailer’s vice president for global public policy, said in written testimony released by a U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee ahead of a Wednesday hearing.

“Given the interstate nature of UAS operations, states and localities must not be allowed to regulate UAS that the FAA has authorized, including with respect to airspace, altitude, purpose of operations, performance and operator qualifications.”

Misener is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of a witness panel that also includes a senior Federal Aviation Administration official and a privacy advocate.

Amazon.com and other companies including Google Inc (GOOGL.O) are working to develop sophisticated drone operations capable of delivering packages to consumers.

Drone advocates have pressed the FAA to accommodate advanced technology in commercial drone regulations expected by the end of 2016. The current proposed rules would limit flights to daylight hours at low altitudes and within an operator’s visual line of site.

But without comprehensive FAA rules in place now, states and local municipalities across the United States have been moving to regulate drone use on their own, using a variety of approaches.

In his testimony, Misener also called on FAA officials to make it their priority to harmonize forthcoming regulations on commercial drone operations with multilateral groups including the International Civil Aviation Organization. Drone advocates have said that overseas regulators have been moving more quickly than their U.S. counterparts to accommodate commercial drone use.

Amazon is also working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on a possible air traffic control system for drones that would further pave the way for integration of UAS into U.S. air space.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/16/us-usa-drones-amazon-com-idUSKBN0OW2RB20150616

 

FAA expects to clear U.S. commercial drones within a year

by Press • 18 June 2015

http://www.suasnews.com/2015/06/36643/faa-expects-to-clear-u-s-commercial-drones-within-a-year/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=e1f967664b-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-e1f967664b-303662705

WASHINGTON | BY DAVID MORGAN

 

U.S. commercial drone operations could take flight on a large scale by this time next year, as federal regulators finalize rules allowing widespread unmanned aerial system use by companies, according to congressional testimony on Wednesday.

A senior Federal Aviation Administration official said the agency expects to finalize regulations within the next 12 months. Previous forecasts had anticipated rules by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

“The rule will be in place within a year,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Hopefully before June 17, 2016,” he added.

 

Drone advocates expect unmanned aerial systems to transform a number of industries – from agriculture and energy production to real estate, news and entertainment, transportation and retailing.

At the congressional hearing, a senior Amazon.com executive told lawmakers that the e-commerce retailer would be ready to begin delivering packages to customers via drones as soon as federal rules allow.

“We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved,” Misener said. “We will have (the technology) in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly.”

Amazon said its plans, which call for delivering packages to customers within 30 minutes, would require FAA rules to accommodate advanced drone technology envisioned by the company’s Prime Air operations.

FAA regulations proposed in February are more restrictive – requiring drones to fly during daylight hours only and to remain within an operator’s visual line of sight.

FAA officials are in discussions with industry stakeholders including Amazon and Google Inc about crafting final regulations that could accommodate more sophisticated drone systems capable of flying autonomously over longer distances.

Whitaker said in written testimony that advanced technology standards are scheduled to be completed in 2016.

The shortened FAA time-horizon for final rules follows a series of agency actions to accommodate commercial drones. FAA officials have been under pressure from lawmakers and industry lobbyists, who claim U.S. companies are losing billions in potential savings and revenues while waiting for regulators to open the way for drones.

The agency has also streamlined its process for exempting companies from a near-ban on commercial drone operations. Whitaker said the FAA is now allowing up to 50 companies a week to use drones as part of their businesses.

 
 

 

Northrop Grumman Successfully Flies Open Mission Systems Architecture on Unmanned Aircraft

by Press • 19 June 2015

http://www.suasnews.com/2015/06/36662/northrop-grumman-successfully-flies-open-mission-systems-architecture-on-unmanned-aircraft/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=d1003bb4a6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-d1003bb4a6-303662705

 

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) successfully flew a new Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture on a NASA Global Hawk, demonstrating the ability to rapidly and affordably adapt new capabilities onto unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The new architecture implementation flight took place at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

This flight confirmed the ability for ground operators to send OMS payload commands and receive OMS subsystem status responses over a Ku SATCOM Beyond-Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) communications link between the unmanned aircraft and an operations center.

A previously developed OMS Critical Abstraction Layer (CAL) was adapted to an OMS Open Computing Environment (OCE) onboard the NASA Global Hawk using a production RQ-4 Global Hawk airborne database computer.

The demonstration illustrates Northrop Grumman’s ability to rapidly deploy OMS on production Global Hawk platforms. The architecture paves the way for integration of new payload options for Global Hawk to support mission flexibility and customer needs. In addition to flying on the NASA Global Hawk UAS, the OMS architecture will be adapted and demonstrated in-flight on a manned airborne weapons system later this month.

NASA Global Hawks are preproduction variants of RQ-4 Global Hawks currently in service around the world. With the ability to fly as high as 60,000 feet for over 30 hours, Global Hawks provide a combination of high altitude and long endurance performance capabilities that allow the science community to study scientific and environmental phenomena in-depth. Global Hawk variants have flown more than 150,000 flight hours in support of antiterrorism, antipiracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, airborne communications relay and information-sharing missions.

NASA and Northrop Grumman recently renewed a five-year Space Act Agreement that includes operation of the NASA Global Hawk system to conduct scientific experiments as well as technology implementations such as this OMS demonstration.

 

 

Pentagon Building Cruise Missile Shield To Defend US Cities From Russia

June 18, 2015 By Marcus Weisgerber

http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2015/06/pentagon-building-cruise-missile-shield-defend-us-cities-russia/115723/?oref=d-topstory

The plan calls for buying radars that would enable National Guard F-16 fighter jets to spot and shoot down fast and low-flying missiles. Top generals want to network those radars with sensor-laden aerostat balloons hovering over U.S. cities and with coastal warships equipped with sensors and interceptor missiles of their own.

One of those generals is Adm. William Gortney, who leads U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, and North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. Earlier this year, Gortney submitted an “urgent need” request to put AESA radars on the F-16s that patrol the airspace around Washington. Such a request allows a project to circumvent the normal procurement process.

While no one will talk openly about the Pentagon’s overall cruise missile defense plans, much of which remain classified, senior military officials have provided clues in speeches, congressional hearings and other public forums over the past year. The statements reveal the Pentagon’s concern about advanced cruise missiles being developed by Russia.

“We’re devoting a good deal of attention to ensuring we’re properly configured against such an attack in the homeland, and we need to continue to do so,” Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a May 19 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington.

We’re devoting a good deal of attention to ensuring we’re properly configured against such an attack in the homeland, and we need to continue to do so.

Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In recent years, the Pentagon has invested heavily, with mixed results, in ballistic missile defense: preparations to shoot down long-range rockets that touch the edge of space and then fall toward targets on Earth. Experts say North Korea and Iran are the countries most likely to strike the U.S. or its allies with such missiles, although neither arsenal has missiles of sufficient range so far.

But the effort to defend the U.S. mainland against smaller, shorter-range cruise missiles has gone largely unnoticed.

“While ballistic missile defense has now become established as a key military capability, the corresponding counters to cruise missiles have been prioritized far more slowly,” said Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington. “In some ways, this is understandable, in terms of the complexity of the threat, but sophisticated cruise missile technologies now out there are just not going away and we are going to have to find a way to deal with this — for the homeland, for allies and partners abroad, and for regional combatant commanders.”

Intercepting cruise missiles is far different from shooting down a missile of the ballistic variety. Launched by ships, submarines, or even trailer-mounted launchers, cruise missiles are powered throughout their entire flight. This allows them to fly close to the ground and maneuver throughout flight, making them difficult for radar to spot.

“A handful of senior military officials, including several current or past NORTHCOM commanders, have been among those quietly dinging the bell about cruise missile threats, and it’s beginning to be heard,” Karako said.

While many of the combatant commanders — the 4-star generals and admirals who command forces in various geographic regions of the world — believe cruise missiles pose a threat to the United States, they have had trouble convincing their counterparts in the military services who decide what arms to buy.

A handful of senior military officials, including several current or past NORTHCOM commanders, have been among those quietly dinging the bell about cruise missile threats, and it’s beginning to be heard

Fast-track requests like Gortney’s demand for new radars on F-16s have been used over the past decade to quickly get equipment to troops on the battlefield. Other urgent operational needs have included putting a laser seeker on a Maverick missile to strike fast-moving vehicles and to buy tens of thousands of MRAP vehicles that were rushed to Iraq to protect soldiers from roadside bomb attacks.

Last August, at a missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala., then-NORTHCOM and NORAD commander Gen. Charles Jacoby criticized the Army and other services for failing to fund cruise missile defense projects. NORTHCOM, based in Colorado, is responsible for defending the United States from such attacks.

“I’m trying to get a service to grab hold of it … but so far we’re not having a lot of success with that,” Jacoby said when asked by an attendee about the Pentagon’s cruise missile defense plans. “I’m glad you brought that up and gave me a chance to rail against my service for not doing the cruise missile work that I need them to do.”

But since then, NORTHCOM has been able to muster support in Congress and at the Pentagon for various related projects. “We’ve made a case that growing cruise missile technology in our state adversaries, like Russia and China, present a real problem for our current defenses,” Jacoby said.

One item at the center of these plans is a giant aerostat called JLENS, short for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. The Pentagon is testing the system at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, a sprawling military complex north of Baltimore. Reporters have even been invited to see the tethered airship, which hovers 10,000 feet in the air.

We’ve made a case that growing cruise missile technology in our state adversaries, like Russia and China, present a real problem for our current defenses.

JLENS carries a powerful radar on its belly that Pentagon officials say can spot small moving objects – including cruise missiles – from Boston to Norfolk, Va., headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. Since it’s so high in the air, it can see farther than ground radars.

JLENS is in the early stages of a three-year test phase, but comments by senior military officials indicate the Pentagon in considering expanding this use of aerostats far beyond the military’s National Capital Region district.

“This is a big country and we probably couldn’t protect the entire place from cruise missile attack unless we want to break the bank,” Winnefeld said. “But there are important areas in this country we need to make sure are defended from that kind of attack.”

New missile interceptors could also play a role in the network too.

“We’re also looking at the changing-out of the kinds of systems that we would use to knock down any cruise missiles headed towards our nation’s capital,” Winnefeld said.

Ground-launched versions of ship- and air-launched interceptors could be installed around major cities or infrastructure, experts say. Raytheon, which makes shipborne SM-6 interceptors, announced earlier this year that it was working on a ground-launched, long-range version of the AMRAAM air-to-air missile.

The improvements make the missiles “even faster and more maneuverable,” the company said in a statement when the announcement was made at the IDEX international arms show in Abu Dhabi in February.

 

The Threat

Driving the concern at the Pentagon is Russia’s development of the Kh-101, an air-launched cruise missile with a reported range of more than 1,200 miles.

“The only nation that has an effective cruise missile capability is Russia,” Gortney said at a March 19 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing.

 

Russian cruise missiles can also be fired from ships and submarines. Moscow has also developed containers that could potentially conceal a cruise missile on a cargo ship, meaning it wouldn’t take a large nation’s trained military to strike American shores.

The only nation that has an effective cruise missile capability is Russia.

“Cruise missile technology is available and it’s exportable and it’s transferrable,” Jacoby said. “So it won’t be just state actors that present that threat to us.”

During the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American and Kuwaiti Patriot missiles intercepted a number of Iraqi ballistic missiles, Karako said. But they missed all five cruise missiles fired, including one fired at Marine headquarters in Kuwait. In 2006, Hezbollah hit an Israeli corvette ship with an Iranian-supplied, Chinese-designed, anti-ship cruise missile, Karako said.

Shooting down the missiles themselves is a pricy proposition, which has led Pentagon officials to focus on the delivery platform.

“The best way to defeat the cruise missile threat is to shoot down the archer, or sink the archer, that’s out there,” Gortney said at an April news briefing at the Pentagon.

At a congressional hearing in March, Gortney said the Pentagon needed to expand its strategy to “hit that archer.”

An existing network of radars, including the JLENS, and interceptors make defending Washington easier than the rest of the country.

“[T]he national capital region is the easier part in terms of the entire kill chain,” Maj. Gen. Timothy Ray, director of Global Power Programs in the Air Force acquisition directorate, said in March at a House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing. “We remain concerned about the coverage for the rest of the country and the rest of the F-16 fleet.”

Winnefeld said that the JLENS and “other systems we are putting in place” would “greatly enhance our early warning around the National Capital Region.”

In an exercise last year, the Pentagon used a JLENS, an F-15, and an air-to-air missile to shoot down a simulated cruise missile. In the test, the JLENS locked on to the cruise missile and passed targeting data to the F-15, which fired an AMRAAM missile. The JLENS then steered the AMRAAM into the mock cruise missile.

But there are many wild cards in the plans, experts say. While the JLENS has worked well in testing, it is not tied into the NORTHCOM’s computer network. It was also tested in Utah where there was far less commercial and civil air traffic than East Coast, some of the most congested airspace in the world. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March, Gortney acknowledged the project is “not without challenges,” but said that’s to be expected in any test program.

It is also unclear whether the JLENS over Maryland spotted a Florida mailman who flew a small gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Penn., to the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington, an hour-long flight through some of the most restricted airspace in the country. The JLENS has been long touted by its makers as being ideal for this tracking these types of slow-moving aircraft.

Gortney, in an April 29 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing about the gyrocopter, told lawmakers the JLENS “has more promise” than other aerostat-mounted radars used by the Department of Homeland Security along the border with Mexico and in South Florida. He deferred his explanation to the classified session after the public hearing.

Experts say JLENS can not just spot but track and target objects like cruise missiles, making it better than other radars used for border security.

Raytheon has built two JLENS, the one at Aberdeen and another in storage and ready for deployment.

If a cruise missile were fired toward Washington, leaders would not have much time to react.

“Solving the cruise missile problem even for Washington requires not just interceptors to be put in place, but also redundant and persistent sensors and planning for what to do, given very short response times,” Karako said.

 

Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Another week, another wave of campaign launches for the crowded Republican field in 2016.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and celebrity billionaire Donald Trump’s announcements this week bring the list of official GOP candidates to 12, but most voters (60%) say it’s better to include all candidates in debates rather than include only those candidates who are above a certain threshold in the polls. Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree and think debates should only include candidates above a certain level of support.

Bush’s entry into the Republican presidential field comes with a burden that the other candidates don’t face: his surname. Forty-three percent (43%) of voters say they are less likely to vote for Bush due to the fact that his father and brother both served as president, while 15% say they are more likely to vote for Jeb because of his family’s political stature. Thirty-nine percent (39%) said the Bush name would have no impact on their vote. However, 56% of Republican voters say that Bush is at least somewhat likely to win the nomination, the highest ranking of any declared GOP candidate

That compares to just 27% of GOP voters who think Trump will be the GOP nominee, putting him near the bottom of the field.

Regardless of who wins the presidency in 2016, voters want the federal government to shrink. Fifty percent (50%) believe the era of big government should be over, but just 18% think it already is

Similarly, voters see an overly powerful government as a bigger danger in the world than an under-powered one

Voters may question just how faithful President Obama has been to the U.S. Constitution, but they continue to stand firm in their own belief about the document that has been the supreme law of the United States for 227 years. 

On the national security front, more voters than ever now say the terrorists are winning the War on Terror. Half (49%) don’t think the government focuses enough on the threat of potential domestic Islamic terrorism.

But enough about politics. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and while voters don’t put much importance on the holiday itself, they still strongly believe in the importance of fatherhood.

In other surveys last week:

Voters say that economic growth is more important than economic fairness and they give a thumbs up to policies that expand the economy over policies that promote fairness. 

President Obama’s approval rating continues to hover near the lowest levels of the year. 

Americans say they want change, but do they want to pay for it? We decided to find out what America thinks.

— Twenty-seven percent (27%) of voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. 

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