Category Archives: Military Tech

Multifunctional Polymer Neutralizes Both Biological and Chemical Weapons

In an ongoing effort to mirror the ability of biological tissues to respond rapidly and appropriately to changing environments, scientists from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine have synthesized a single, multifunctional polymer material that can decontaminate both biological and chemical toxins. They described the findings recently in Biomaterials.

“Our lab applies biological principles to create materials that can do many things, just like our skin protects us from both rain and sun,” said senior investigator Alan Russell, Ph.D., University Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director, McGowan Institute, a joint effort of the university and UPMC. “Typically, labs engineer products that are designed to serve only one narrow function.”

Those conventional approaches might not provide the best responses for weapons of mass destruction, which could be biological, such as smallpox virus, or chemical, such as the nerve agent sarin, he noted. Terrorists aren’t going to announce what kind of threat they unleash in an attack.

“That uncertainty calls for a single broad-spectrum decontamination material that can rapidly neutralize both kinds of threats and is easily delivered or administered, and it must not damage the environment where it is applied,” Dr. Russell said. “Much work has gone into developing ways to thwart either germ or chemical weapons, and now we’re combining some of them into one countermeasure.”

He and his team have devised a polyurethane fiber mesh containing enzymes that lead to the production of bromine or iodine, which kill bacteria, as well as chemicals that generate compounds that detoxify organophosphate nerve agents.

“This mesh could be developed into sponges, coatings or liquid sprays, and it could be used internally or as a wound dressing that is capable of killing bacteria, viruses and spores,” said lead investigator Gabi Amitai, Ph.D., of the McGowan Institute and the Israel Institute for Biological Research. “The antibacterial and antitoxin activities do not interfere with each other, and actually can work synergistically.”

In their experiments, the material fended off Staph aureus and E. coli, which represent different classes of bacteria. After 24 hours, it restored 70 percent of the activity of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that is inhibited by nerve agents leading to fatal dysfunction of an essential neurotransmitter.

The researchers continue to develop alternate decontamination strategies to address chemical and biologic weapons.

Co-authors of the paper include Hironobu Murata, Ph.D., and senior research technician Jill Andersen, both of the McGowan Institute; and Richard Koepsel, Ph.D., of the McGowan Institute and the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The study was funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Boeing A160T Hummingbird UAV proves front line resupply capabilities

A Boeing A160T Hummingbird UAV, like the one shown here during a previous sling-load test flight, has met or exceeded all requirements during a sling-load cargo demonstration for the U.S. Marines

By Darren Quick

Boeing’s A160T Hummingbird UAV has successfully completed a simulated mission test proving the unmanned rotorcraft’s ability to resupply frontline troops in rough terrain. The demonstration saw the A160T carry 1,250-pound sling loads over two 150-nautical-mile round trips operating autonomously on a pre-programmed mission. The demonstration proved the craft is capable of delivering at least 2,500 pounds of cargo from one simulated forward-operating base to another 75 nautical miles away in well under the required six hours.

The A160T completed seven test flights during the demonstration, including a two-minute hover at 12,000 feet with the 1,250-pound sling load, and a nighttime delivery to a simulated forward operating base. Boeing says the A160T’s ability to execute extremely accurate autonomous deliveries also was demonstrated.

“The Hummingbird’s performance was outstanding, as we had expected,” said Vic Sweberg, director of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Boeing Military Aircraft. “The A160T’s capabilities can fulfill our customer’s near-term need for 24/7, reliable cargo resupply. It also provides unmatched flexibility to carry out a variety of other missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; target acquisition; direct action; and communication relay.”

The A160T has a 2,500-pound payload capacity. It features a unique optimum-speed-rotor technology that significantly improves overall performance efficiency by adjusting the rotor’s speed at different altitudes, gross weights and cruise speeds. The autonomous unmanned aircraft, measuring 35 feet long with a 36-foot rotor diameter, has hovered at 20,000 feet and cruised at more than 140 knots.

The unmanned chopper established a world endurance record in its class in 2008 with an 18.7-hour unrefueled flight.

Boeing Completes Design of Shipboard Superlaser

By Nathan Hodge

The U.S. military is bankrolling all kinds of projects to harness the power of directed energy, from laser-equipped aircraft that can shoot down ballistic missiles to smaller beam weapons mounted on Humvees that could zap mortars or artillery shells. The Navy is no exception: It wants a shipboard laser that is powerful enough to destroy anti-ship missiles.

Defense giant Boeing now says it has completed the preliminary design of one such weapon, the Free Electron Laser, or FEL. In a news release today, the company said it had presented its FEL design, which will operate by forcing a stream of high-energy electrons through a series of magnetic fields, creating a weapons-grade blast of laser light.

If it works, it would be the holy grail of military lasers. For starters, it would able to blast though the atmosphere without losing too much strength (see explanation here). And it would have an unlimited magazine: As long as the ship provided enough electrical power, it could keep on zapping.

Boeing isn’t the only company working on such a project. Last year, the Office of Naval Research awarded contracts to both Raytheon and Boeing for preliminary design work on FEL. As we reported, this laser would be capable of reaching up to 100 kilowatts. In theory, it would be a potential long-range replacement for the radar-guided Phalanx gun, the Navy’s current system for close-in defense from cruise missiles and other threats.

But as we noted last year, it’s all easier said than done. Developing prototypes isn’t enough: The future Navy will need a fleet of futuristic, fully electric ships that generate enough power for these next-generation weapons.

Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Watch the New F-35 Jet Hover With Breathtaking Stillness

It looks like a special effect, but it’s not. What you’re watching is an F-35B supersonic stealth jet spend 30 seconds suspended 150ft in the air, for the very first time.

The first successful hover test was piloted at the Patuxent River naval base by British pilot Graham Tomlinson. This isn’t the first aircraft that can take off and land vertically, of course. But it’s the first of its kind with the capability. The plan is for the F-35B to replace the Harrier fleets of the US Marine Corp, Royal Navy, and RAF as soon as budget and production constraints allow. But the technology is clearly ready for action now. What I wouldn’t give to get in a review unit. [The Register via Dvice]

Send an email to Brian Barrett, the author of this post, at

Boeing Announces “NewGen” Aircraft for Tanker Replacement Program

Shane McGlaun (Blog)

Boeing tanker uses flight deck from Dreamliner

One of the most lucrative military projects ever offered by the Pentagon is the contract to replace the aging fleet of flying tankers for the Air Force. The Air Force has been looking to replace the fleet of KC-135 aircraft with new and improved planes for years and the project has been a hotbed of controversy.

This week Boeing has announced that it will offer its NewGen Tanker to the Air Force in attempt to win the huge contract to replace the Air Force KC-135 fleet. Boeing has dubbed the new tanker “NewGen” because of the state of the art systems that are integrated to meet future mission requirements. These features include a digital flight deck taken from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing twists the knife in Northrop’s back by adding that the screens in the NewGen tanker are 75% larger than those in the Airbus A330, on which Northrop’s proposed tanker is based.

The Boeing NewGen tanker will also have a new generation fly-by-wire boom with an expanded refueling envelope and an increased fuel offload rate. Boeing also states that the aircraft will meet all Air Force requirements for refueling operations and reduced workload for crew. Boeing also reports that the NewGen Tanker provides full access to the unrestricted flight envelope of the aircraft to the crew rather than allowing the computer to limit combat maneuverability.

Boeing also claims that its aircraft will save taxpayers over $10 billion in fuel costs during the aircraft’s 40-year service life thanks to the 24% fuel savings compared to similar aircraft. Boeing will deliver the proposal for the tanker by May 10, which is within the 75-day window that bidders have to turn in proposals for aircraft.

President and CEO of Boeing Defense Dennis Muilenburg said, “Having supplied tankers to the Air Force for the past 60 years, Boeing has drawn on its unmatched aerial-refueling experience to thoroughly review and evaluate the KC-X solicitation issued by the Air Force. We respect and understand the KC-X requirements, and appreciate the importance of this program for the United States and its warfighters. We intend to bid for the honor to work with our Air Force customer to replace the existing fleet of KC-135 aircraft with a new-generation, multi-role tanker in a fair and transparent acquisition process.”

Northrop Grumman, EADS was originally granted the win for the lucrative contract worth an estimated $35 billion in March of 2008. The entire bid process seemed to be over until the other bidder for the contract — Boeing – filed a protest against the Northrop win claiming that the process used to award the contract to Northrop had “serious flaws” and the protest ultimately resulted in the biding and RFP process starting over.

In February 2010, the Pentagon released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for the tanker aircraft and Northrop Grumman, EADS was not happy with the new proposals. According to the aircraft giant, the new RFP leaned so heavily towards the Boeing KC-767 proposal that there was little reason for Northrop to offer an aircraft in the bidding process. Northrop claimed that the new changes to the RFP made the Airbus A330-based KC-45A that it won the original RFP with financially unsuitable for the company. Northrop threatened to withdraw from the bidding process if changes weren’t made. The Pentagon stated if it only had one bidder for the tanker contract, it would continue with the process.

U.S. Air Force Outlines Future Spending, Aircraft Needs

Michael Barkoviak

The demand for F-35 is still there, but the USAF also has other aircraft it is interested in

Congress has mandated the U.S. Air Force draft the “Aircraft Investment Plan” that outlines aircraft purchase goals from 2021 to 2040.

The USAF wants to spend between $2 billion to $4 billion per year in long-range bomber aircraft from 2011 to 2020.  It’s unknown if the next-generation bomber will be able to fly at supersonic speeds, but it’s possible an unmanned long-range bomber will be created.

The USAF will upgrade its 180 fighter F-22 Raptor fleet using $1.9 billion in funding, with retirement expected in 15 years.  Over the next eight years, expect additional MQ-9 Reapers to be developed, though an expected 372 are expected for purchase.

The USAF will reportedly spend upwards of $70 billion on 602 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft over the next 10 years with an estimated total fleet of 1,763 F-35 jets.  Specifically, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all face budget issues and an unclear future of the F-35, as actual demand for the expensive aircraft remains unknown.

As the Air Force continues to have problems with F-35, additional mobility is a bigger interest.

The F-35 was expected to become the U.S. military’s next major fighter aircraft, but the program is over budget and has been delayed.  Testing has been pushed back at least one year, with Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn and other military officials seeking to put more pressure on Lockheed Martin.

As has become custom with recent spending plans, the total dollar figure invested and number of aircraft purchased can and will change at any time.

Danger Room What’s Next in National Security A Combat Zone iPhone? Soldiers Have an App for That

By Nathan Hodge

In the military’s vision of future, the real trick will be getting information down to the individual soldier on the battlefield. Now the Army plans to test a smartphone for soldiers that will have mobile applications that could — in theory — access everything from technical manuals and maintenance records to maps and cultural intelligence.

In a discussion yesterday with reporters, Maj. Gen. Keith Walker, director of the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss, Texas, said that around 200 soldiers would receive an “iPhone-like device” with digital apps installed.

Walker said the devices would have “various apps for system maintenance, instruction manuals — that we can all remotely upgrade. Also, we’re working to allow soldiers to have a distributed way of getting feedback to us on the equipment, where they can do Wikipedia-style upgrades to tactics, techniques and procedures, and comments on performance of hardware and software.”

Further down the road, Walker said he could envision tactical applications, like an app with GPS capability that could pinpoint the user’s location, or a digital tool that would allow troops to analyze terrain.

“This initiative we are moving out on,” Walker said. “We will see this happen this year.”

It’s part of a larger project called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications. While there is not yet a definite plan to procure and field a combat iPhone, troops at Fort Bliss will experiment with the handset to test ways that some of these new technologies might actually be integrated into the force.

It’s not the only experiment underway at Fort Bliss. Soldiers of the service’s 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss are testing and evaluating pieces of the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization plan — a more streamlined successor to the service’s now-defunct Future Combat Systems program. Other items being tested include a common controller, a Nintendo-style control that can be used to maneuver both the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot and the Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (affectionately known as the “flying beer keg”).

Separately, the Army has contracted with iStrategyLabs for a contest called “Apps for the Army,” or A4A. Open to soldiers and civilian employees of the Army, the contest encourages participants to think up new mobile and web apps that might be of use to soldiers. Top submissions will be announced at a conference in August; winners will receive cash prizes.

Photo: U.S. Army

New RFP for Air Force Tanker Released by Pentagon, Northrop Grumman/EADS Still Unhappy

Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45

Shane McGlaun (Blog)

EADS says Request for Proposals (RFP) is biased towards Boeing offering

Anytime the U.S. government opens bids and proposals on a large defense contract, drama often follows. Such has been the case with the long and drawn out saga of finding a replacement for the fleet of Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft that are tasked with refueling all manner of military aircraft.

Many thought a winner was chosen and the program was set to move on in March of 2008 when the Air Force awarded the contract to Northrop Grumman/EADS. That win was short lived when the other bidder in the competition — Boeing — filed a formal protest over the win by EADS with Boeing citing serious flaws in the process of awarding the win to Northrop Grumman/EADS. The win was overthrown and bidding set to resume.

Northrop Grumman/EADS threatened in late 2009 to boycott the competition if changes to the program weren’t made to better suit its needs. The issue for Northrop Grumman/EADS was that changes made to the program made the firm’s proposed Airbus A330-based KC-45A aircraft financially unsuitable for the company. The main complaint is that the changes favor a smaller and cheaper aircraft, such as the one Boeing is proposing. reports that the Pentagon has now released the new RFP guidelines for the areal refueling tanker and reopened bidding on the defense deal worth about $40 billion. With Northrop Grumman/EADS threatening to pull out of the bidding process if concession aren’t made, the whole saga could ultimately boil down to a single horse race with Boeing the uncontested winner.

Northrop maintains that the Air Force has only made cosmetic changes to the RFP released last fall, and that the RFP is so biased towards the Boeing KC-767 that it makes no sense to submit a bid for the contract. Northrop had planned to build the aircraft in Alabama if it won the contract and has Alabama Senator Richard Shelby on its side.

Shelby said, “The final RFP discredits the integrity of the entire process. It is an illusion of a fair competition in which the warfighter and the taxpayer lose.”

Aviation Week reports that changes to the RFP include a new pricing structure that allows for fixed pricing on lots one and two of the tanker order and allows adjustments for inflation on lots three to 13 of the order. Also changed is that the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures suite will be provided by the government rather than provided by the aircraft builder at their cost. The RFP also removed the requirement for a microwave landing system to help with night and bad weather landings. Other changes were also made to the RFP.

Senator Shelby (R-Alabama) says, “Additional capabilities that would better protect the lives of our men and women in uniform were neglected in the draft RFP. Substantial changes that bring those factors into consideration in the final RFP are necessary to have a full and transparent competition, yet the Air Force did not make a single revision to the key warfighter requirements.”

The Pentagon is prepared to continue the bidding process even if Northrop drops out of the competition. Another option still being considered is buying aircraft from both companies.

Air Force Chief of Staff Says “No” to Boeing Airborne Laser

Shane McGlaun (Blog)

Air Force wants solid-state not chemical lasers

Boeing has been working an Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) for quite some time and so far, the program has been successful. Earlier this month, the ALTB aircraft was able to successfully target and destroy a liquid-fueled short-range threat-representative ballistic missile. The missile was destroyed while boosting after being hit by the megawatt-class high-energy laser. The next target for live tests for the system was a solid fuel missile fired an hour after the liquid fuel missile was destroyed. The solid fuel missile was destroyed by the laser as well.

With the program spanning many years and now proving to be effective in the field, many would expect the Air Force to be salivating at the thought of fielding a fleet of missile killing laser aircraft. However, General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff has quashed any notions of moving to production for a fleet of airborne laser (ABL) aircraft.

Schwartz said while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee this week that the ABL test was “a magnificent technical achievement,” reports DefenseTech. He went on to say that the ABL “does not represent something that is operationally viable.”

The reason for the statement is that Schwartz believes that the “future coin of the realm” will be solid-state lasers rather than the chemical laser that Boeing designed for the ABL program.

The Boeing system was first deemed ready for flight-testing in October of 2006 and the first shoot down test was originally scheduled for 2008. In December of 2008, the Boeing system was able to fire its laser beam through its beam control guidance system for the first time.

Developments costs for the airborne laser program have totaled $8.2 billion according to the Daily Herald.

First Littoral Combat Ship deployed

First Littoral (Close to Shore) Combat Ship deployed (Click for more pictures)

By Gizmag Team

The first Littoral Combat Ship (Close to shore Combat Ship) departed from Florida today for its maiden deployment, approximately two years ahead of schedule. The agile 378-foot USS Freedom (LCS 1), designed and built by a team of companies led by Lockheed Martin, is the first of 55 the U.S. Navy plans for a new class of ships designed to operate in coastal waters.

“We congratulate the USS Freedom and her crew on their maiden deployment as this new class of Littoral Combat Ships begins to fulfill important global security missions,” said Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Bob Stevens. “Her quality and proven performance enabled Freedom’s deployment two years ahead of schedule, a significant accomplishment in naval shipbuilding. As we compete to build additional ships for the U.S. Navy, the Lockheed Martin team remains focused on delivering an affordable surface combatant with the flexibility to provide security close to shore and on the open seas.”