Friday, May 13, 2011

MWJ Article Forecasts Technology used to Report Bin Laden Operation

Around the time last year when the Obama administration was first learning about bin Laden’s where-abouts in Abbottabad Pakistan, we at the Journal were putting the final touches on our August Military Microwave supplement. While the Journal and its staff has no obvious connection to the administration, military and intelligence community behind this successful covert operation, we do have a connection to this story by way of an article we were about to publish that month. The previous fall at the Milcom show in Boston, I had read an article by Dr. Simon et. al. of Queen’s University in Belfast on millimeter-wave ad hoc personal communication system for war fighters. I had invited Dr. Cotton to author the cover story for our Military supplement and he along with William Scanlon (Queen's University of Belfast), Efstratios Skafidas (University of Melbourne) and Bhopinder Madahar (Ministry of Defence, UK) graciously accepted our offer. The article was entitled, “Millimeter-wave Stealth Radio for Special Operations Forces”.

The Abstract read as follows:
For Special Operations Forces, an important attribute of any future radio will be the ability to conceal transmissions from the enemy while transmitting large amounts of data for situational awareness and communications. These requirements will mean that military wireless systems designers will need to consider operating frequencies in the mm-wave bands. The high data rates that are achievable at these frequencies and the propagation characteristics at this wavelength will provide many benefits for the implementation of √ęstealth radio√≠. This article discusses some of the recent advances in RF front-end technology, alongside physical layer transmission schemes that could be employed for millimeter-wave soldier-mounted radio. The operation of a hypothetical millimeter-wave soldier-to-soldier communications system that makes use of smart antenna technology is also described.

I thought of these high speed data communication networks when I heard that the White House and operation leaders were watching the action in Pakistan unfold in real-time. After years of developing microwaves for weapon systems created and used during the Cold War, perhaps older Microwave Journal readers are well accustomed to knowing the technology story behind the headlines, but it still gives me the chills when it happens. I invite everyone to go back and read Dr. Cotton’s article now that it has moved from science fiction to forecast to fact.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stealth Technology is Being Applied Everywhere

We learned last week that Navy SEALs probably used advanced technology on the Sikorsky choppers used in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Military aviation experts have been poring over photographs of the debris (photo courtesy of Reuters), particularly the tail section, of the Black Hawk that had a hard landing and was purposely destroyed to protect its technology.

Exactly how the Black Hawk helicopters were modified is not completely known, but the photographs of the wreckage offer new clues to the military's cutting-edge methods. Several analysts agreed the aircraft used technology that appeared to stem from the Comanche, a $39 billion, joint project between Sikorsky and Boeing until it was scrapped in 2004 due to high costs. The tail rotor was modified with a dish covering part of the rotor to suppress noise and the tail section was modified to reduce it radar cross section. In addition, there was evidence of radar absorbing materials being used on the Black Hawks.

Also last week, Boeing announced that its Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS) successfully completed its first flight April 27 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This is a stealth unmanned platform which is obvious from its shape. The 17-minute flight took place following a series of high-speed taxi tests in March that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Phantom Ray flew to 7,500 feet and reached a speed of 178 knots.

The flight demonstrated Phantom Ray's basic airworthiness, setting the stage for additional flights in the next few weeks. These company-funded flights will prepare Phantom Ray to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.

Stealth technology is being applied to most combat aircraft built in the US these days, so it is a pretty safe prediction that all future US combat aircraft will be built using stealth technology and might even be all unmanned going forward.