As work proceeds on the first of the Royal Navy's two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, authorities at what will be their home port, HMNB Portsmouth, England, have approved a design for the Portsmouth Approach Channel, the body of water through which the 65,000-tonne (71,630-ton) ships will transit. The carriers will be the largest vessels ever docked at Portsmouth. As a result, based on a design developed by BMT Isis Ltd., the Royal Navy will dredge a new approach that is 30 ft. deeper than the current one. The draft of both ships is 36 ft.
The ScanEagle mini-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), in use by the U.S. Navy, has logged its first flight powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The UAV, developed by Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc. of Bingen, Wash., flew 2.5 hr. with the propulsion module. The flight test is significant since the U.S. Defense Department expects fuel cells to play an increasingly important role in improving the mission capability of UAVs and other platforms. One benefit of fuel cells for UAVs such as ScanEagle is reduced weight.
The U.S. Air Force is looking for one good aluminum alloy. The service wants a higher-strength alternative to alloy 2014, which is widely used in aerospace components and fittings, as well as military vehicles and weapons, due to its machining and forming properties. It also wants an alternative to alloy 2040, developed and produced by Alcoa. This material has enhanced properties compared with 2014 that reduce landing-gear weight, but it's a single-source metal, and costly.
As roadside bombs proliferate, the danger to vehicles isn't just on the battlefield, but city streets. Companies are turning to commercial products to respond to the threat. Cassidian, a division of EADS, offers a Convoy Protection Jammer to counter roadside bombs. The device uses Cassidian's Smart Responsive Jamming Technology to detect and disrupt signals commonly used to detonate bombs— those in the 20-mhz-6-ghz frequency range. Once detected, the device transmits jamming signals in real time that match the hostile frequency.
An innovation in a welding process could open the door for the U.S. Navy and shipbuilders to construct hulls of marine-grade titanium—a development that would substantially increase strength, decrease vessel weight and eliminate corrosion. The innovation is in friction stir welding, which joins metal with heat created by the high-speed rotation of a spinning pin tool. The pin tool plasticizes—but does not melt—metal, forming a weld as it moves along a joint. Efforts to use it with titanium had failed because the pin tool would erode and mix with the metal, degrading it.
The business of being a sniper could soon become a little easier—at least for U.S. Army shooters. The Army is continuing development of its next-generation technology for sniper scopes and marksman sights for extended range known as the Integrated Ballistic Reticle System (IBRS) program. Bids were first solicited in 2010. Since then, the Army has completed two phases of the program, and in April selected L-3 Integrated Optical Systems of Pittsburgh to continue development of the technology in a third phase, which is to last 12 months.
November 2011 was a month to remember in Iran. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report challenged Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes; two suspicious explosions killed individuals critical to ballistic missile and nuclear enrichment programs; and Basidji paramilitary “students” stormed the British embassy in Tehran, rupturing relations.
Meanwhile, speculation continues as to whether Israel, the U.S., or both would attack Iran's uranium enrichment sites to prevent what many say is a march to nuclear armament.
The U.S. Navy plans to start production of the first of 12 SSBN(X) ballistic missile submarines in 2019 to replace the 14 Ohio-class boats. Construction, at the rate of one per year, is projected to continue to 2033, and the submarines could serve until the 2080s.
Before the keel for the first boat is laid, however, much will be done in such areas as design, systems engineering and finalization of per-boat and life-cycle costs. The Milestone A program has received authorization for technology development, which will take place in Milestone B.
Operational testing and evaluation has started on a method of dynamically balancing aircraft propellers that works continuously during flight and reduces direct operating and lifecycle costs. Developed by Lord Corp., the In-Flight Propeller Balancing System (IPBS) is being evaluated by the U.S. Air Force for its 500-plus fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130H transports, which are equipped with Hamilton Sundstrand 54H60-91 propeller systems.
Flight decks aren't the only operations that Mary Cummings wants to simplify (see above). The MIT professor and her research team are working with Boeing to fine-tune technology that permits a soldier to fly a micro-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) with an iPhone. Operators could do this with just minutes of training, freeing them from conventional command-and-control platforms and enabling them to focus on mission-specific drone operations.
The U.S. Army last month rolled out the latest upgrade to Boeing's iconic Apache attack helicopter—the AH-64D Longbow Block III. The version includes at least 25 technology upgrades and, importantly, interoperability with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that permits a pilot in flight to control a drone, tap into its streaming video and use its sensors for target engagement.
The AH-64D Block III will reportedly be the only aircraft with such a capability.
Budget cuts will affect almost every part of the U.S. military including infrastructure maintenance and replacement. One economical approach could be the use of recycled plastics in load-bearing structures, a technique that costs less than conventional materials, requires little maintenance, provides long life and has environmental benefits. Axion International of New Providence, N.J., demonstrated this by supplying materials extruded from 85,000 lb. of recyclate for a 36-ft. bridge at Camp Mackall, N.C.