Northrop Grumman and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated the ability to wirelessly transmit 100 gigabits per second over a distance of 20km (12.4 miles), an improvement in two-way data links that the company claims could enable powerful airborne sensors to provide on-the-ground military personnel with nearly real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance updates.
The two-way data link, which featured active pointing and tracking, was demonstrated 19 January 2018 between two ground stations in Los Angeles as part of DARPA’s 100Gbps RF Backbone programme, according to Northrop Grumman, who announced the test on 22 August. The data rate is fast enough to download a 50Gb Blu-ray video in four seconds. The transmission was not encrypted, says Northrop Grumman.
“This dramatic improvement in data transmission performance could significantly increase the volume of airborne sensor data that can be gathered and reduce the time needed to exploit sensor data,” says Louis Christen, director of Northrop Grumman’s research and technology. “Next generation sensors such as hyperspectral imagers typically collect data faster, and in larger quantity than most air-to-ground data links can comfortably transmit. Without such a high data rate link data would need to be reviewed and analysed after the aircraft lands.”
As part of the second phase of DARPA’s Backbone programme, which started in June and is ongoing, Northrop Grumman aims to demonstrate the transmission of up to 100Gbps over a 100km range using hardware flown aboard subsidiary Scaled Composite’s Proteus demonstration aircraft. The aerospace manufacturer also wants to show the ability to transmit at even further distances, though at lower data rates.
To accomplish these data transmission rates, DARPA’s website says the programme is using millimeter wave radio frequencies to produce spectral efficiencies at or above 20 bits-per-second per Hz. Computationally efficient signal processing algorithms are also being developed to meet size, weight, and power limitations of host platforms, which will mostly be high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, the agency says.
The Navy is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to modernizing
General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego and BAE Systems Norfolk have both received roughly $147 million contracts to modernize
The contracts appear to fulfill a promise made to Congress three years ago that they would not move to decommission the aging warships, which serve in the fleet as the primary air defense platforms for protecting the aircraft carriers, something lawmakers were skeptical of when the Navy first advanced its cruiser modernization plan.
The contracts, aimed at the maintenance, modernization and repair of the hulls, come as the ships enter their last year in the program known as the "2-4-6 plan," which allowed the Navy to lay up two cruisers a year, for no more than four years and allow no more than 6 of the ships to undergo modernization at any one time. Both Cowpens and Gettysburg were put into phased modernization in 2015, meaning they'll need to come out in 2019.
vThe Navy’s cruiser modernization efforts will likely continue in 2019. The cruisers Vicksburg and Chosin were inducted into phased modernization in 2016, meaning they will be within their year window next year. Furthermore, the Navy asked for funding for six cruiser service-life extensions in 2019, according to
Earlier in the decade the Navy was looking to cut costs by decommissioning early some of the cruisers that had not reached their expected hull life, a move that angered some in Congress including then-House Armed Services seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, and current seapower chairman
Since the Trump administration has taken office, however, talk of decommissioning older combatants has all turned to keeping them around as long as possible to reach a 355-ship fleet now required by law. In addition to the cruisers, the Navy is also putting a plan together to extend the lives of all the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to 45 years, as a means of driving up the ship count, the Navy’s top requirements officer Vice Adm. Bill Merz told lawmakers in April.
“We saw a path to achieve this 355 [-ship fleet] achievement as quickly as the 2030s,” said Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems. “NAVSEA [Naval Sea Systems Command] completed the analysis of the class, so we will in fact be extending the entire class out to 45 years. ... With that, now we know the life expectancy of the entire class,” he said. “We can roll in the right maintenance, the modernizations much more efficiently, much more affordably, for the entire duration of the class."
But keeping older ships in the fleet comes at a premium because, much like maintaining a classic car, the cost of maintaining and operating the hull only goes up as ships push the limits of of their service lives.
“If the Navy wants to get the fleet numbers up, this is the way to do it,” said Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and retired submarine officer. "But at some point it becomes more cost-effective to just buy a new ship. If they don’t have the money to do that right now then the only choice they have is to keep the older ships. But you end up spending more money in the long run, because you don’t have the money for new ships in the short term.
“That is something the Navy is really going to have to wrestle with, especially as they are talking about keeping the destroyers around for 45 years. At some point the [operations and maintenance] costs become unsustainable.”
There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Woody.
But he doesn’t wear a cowboy hat or ride a horse.
He’s Vice Adm.
His beat now is what strategists increasingly say is America’s backdoor — the Atlantic Ocean — and it now will be patrolled by his Norfolk-based 2nd Fleet.
As a Cold War with Russia grew cooler in early 1950, the Navy created the 2nd Fleet to check Moscow’s designs on the Atlantic Rim, especially Europe.
Increasing activity by the Russians in the North Atlantic and in Europe prodded Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson revive it.
“There are some bad actors on the world’s stage,” Lewis told the crowd. “We call them competitors in our strategic documents. They intend to undermine and rewrite the order that America established at the end of world war II and threaten the very birthright freedoms that we hold sacred.”
His boss at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Chris Grady, agreed telling the audience that “the days of competition at sea and challenges to our maritime security have returned.”
“We, as a nation, have not had to confront such a competition since the Cold War ended nearly three decades ago,” Grady said.
With more than 100 combat missions over Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan, Lewis said that both America and its Navy have become complacent over the past two decades in an Atlantic Ocean stretching 6.7 million square miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic — but reestablishing 2nd Fleet helps fix that.
“Second Fleet has a storied history and we’ll honor that legacy,” Lewis told the crowd. “However, we will not simply pick up where we left off. We are going to aggressively and quickly rebuild this command into an operational warfighting organization. We will challenge assumptions, recognize, our own vices and learn and adapt from our own failures in order to innovate and build a fleet that’s ready to fight.”
In his speech, Adm. Richardson pointed to one of the hottest moments in the Cold War, the decision by President John F. Kennedy to establish a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, quarantining Havana from Russian attempts to arm the communist nation with nuclear warheads carried by medium-range ballistic missiles.
In operations that straddled October and November of 1962, Second Fleet interdicted vessels bound for Cuba while Marines prepped for a possible invasion and surveillance aircraft prowled the Atlantic to monitor the movements of thousands of merchant ships.
“This new new dynamic, prompted, in part by a resurgent Russia, the National Defense Strategy made clear that there are countries, once again, competing to define [the Atlantic Ocean], not in the interests of opportunity and equality for all, but on their terms,” Richardson told the audience.
Richardson called for 2nd Fleet to seize “a central role in pioneering new and experimental concepts of operation” in cooperation with America’s allies.
Like its Cold War ancestor, the revitalized 2nd Fleet will exert operational control over warships, aircraft and landing forces so that it can become a “well-forged fighting force with a fighting mindset, restoring large scale, ocean maneuver, warfare formation dedicated to the Atlantic Ocean," Richardson said.
And Lewis is his pick to make it happen.
Originally from California, Lewis graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985 and became a Navy aviator two years later. He’s accumulated 5,300 flight hours and 1,100 arrested carrier landings along the way and in 1996 was named the Naval Air Forces Pacific Pilot of the Year.
He previously commanded Carrier Strike Group 12, Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Carrier Air Wing 3 and the “Valions” of Strike Fighter Squadron 15 and the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron 106.
More links:MALD-X Project Completes Free Flight Demonstration
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering's Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), with Air Force Miniature Air Launch Decoy (MALD) Program Office, and Naval Air Warfare Center Point Mugu successfully completed a series of free flight demonstrations of the MALD-X on August 20 and 22