Sea-Air-Space 2019 Virtual Tour

Like most of you I did not make it to the Navy League’s 2019 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, so I have found some YouTube reports that can at least provide some of the information passed along at the event. The descriptions below each video are from the YouTube description.

Day 1 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. In this video we cover:
– Boeing MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drone with Rear Admiral Corey
– Future USVs and XLUUV/Orca programs with Captain Pete Small
– Austal USA new range of medium and large size USVs
Textron Systems CUSV with surface warfare payload
– ST Engineering range of USVs

Day 2 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. In this video we cover:
– Raytheon SPY-6 radar
– Raytheon / Kongsberg NSM for USMC
– Northrop Grumman PGK for naval 5 Inch and 155mm guns
– Lockheed Martin Freedom-class lethality and survivability upgrade
– Lockheed Martin FFG(X)
– Navantia / BIW FFG(X)

Day 3 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. Washington-based naval expert Chris Cavas is our guest speaker for this third and final day at Sea Air Space 2019. Cavas covers the follow topics:
– Bell V-247 Vigilant VTOL tilt-rotor UAV in U.S. Navy configuration
– Austal USA USV concepts
– Austal USA FFG(X) Frigate
– Fincantieri FFG(X) Frigate
– GD Bath Iron Works FFG(X) Frigate
– Lockheed Martin Type 26 CSC
– Lockheed Martin hypervelocity missile
– Mic drop

Norwegians Test Vertical Take Off UAS for SAR in the Arctic

Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 will start tests with the Norwegian Coast Guard in fall 2019. Schiebel

Seapower Magazine is reporting that the Norwegian Coast Guard is to begin a second set of tests to confirm the usefulness of a vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) for SAR in the Arctic environment.

The UAS, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100, has a max takeoff weight of 200 kg (441 lb), a length of 3.11 m (10 ft 2 in), and a main rotor diameter of 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in). The system is widely used, including operation by the German, Italian, and Chinese Navies and the Russian Coast Guard. (More here). It is much more compact than even the smaller MQ-8B version of Fire Scout which has a max. takeoff weight: of 3,150 lb (1,430 kg), a length of 23.95 ft (7.3 m), and a main rotor diameter of 27.5 ft (8.4 m)

We might want to ask if we could send an observer or at least get the results of their evaluation.

Coast Guard Adoption of ScanEagle Encourages International Sales –DefenseOne

Scan Eagle approaching a ship for its first autonomous recovery, using the Skyhook system. This shows how even very small ships can operate these systems.

Pulled the following from DefenseOne’s Global Business Brief, an email blast. 

Insitu Eyes ScanEagle Exports

Insitu says U.S. Coast Guard plans to expand the use of its ScanEagle surveillance drone might draw international customers.

“It’s an old adage: ‘as goes the Coast Guard, so goes the rest of the navies around the world’,” said Ron Tremain, who works in business development at the Boeing subsidiary, in an interview on Monday. “What I see happening: not only are we already working with a number of international navies, but I see more international navies patterning their [unmanned aerial system] operations after the Coast Guard.”

ScanEagle drones flown from the USCGC Stratton over the past year and a half have helped in the seizure of an estimated $1.8 billion in cocaine. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, in March, announced plans to accelerate the installation of ScanEagle drones on all National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters. Insitu — which owns and operates the Coast Guard’s ScanEagles — is installing the gear for controlling the drones on the service’s ships.

The U.S. Navy started using ScanEagles on its destroyers in 2005. Italy, Britain, Colombia, and Greece are among the international navies using the drone.

In recent weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration granted an Operational Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to allow Coast Guard ScanEagles to fly surveillance missions near the U.S.-Mexico border, Tremain said.

“It’s the very first step in normalizing UAS operations,” he said. “Although a very, very small step, it is significant.”

“IMSAR’s NSP-5 Radar Moving Into Production for RQ-21 Unmanned System” –Seapower Magazine

GULF OF MEXICO (Feb. 10, 2013) Members of the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) test team transport the RQ-21A across the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) after its first flight at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine/Released) 130210-N-NB538-195

The Navy League’s Magazine Seapower reports that “a synthetic aperture/ground moving target Indicator Radar Payload and has been given the prototype designation AN/DPY-2()” for the MQ-21 Blackjack.

The Coast Guard has always wanted their unmanned air system (UAS) to have a radar system and the Scan Eagle that the Coast Guard has contracted for has been tested with a radar from this manufacturer. I am not sure if Coast Guard Scan Eagles are radar equipped, but, if not, it appears that radar equipped small UAS are a definite possibility.

The RQ-21 Blackjack is, like the Scan Eagle, made by Boeing Insitu. It is heavier, 135 lb (61 kg) vs 48.5 lb (22 kg) max takeoff weight, with a correspondingly larger payload weight, but like the Scan Eagle it launches from the same launch and recovery systems.

The radar may be a bit large for Scan Eagle, but apparently not for the Blackjack.

The NSP-5 delivers high-performance capabilities despite its small size, weight and power characteristics. Commercially, the NSP-5 is available in a standard pod configuration that measures 5.4 inches (13.7 centimeters) in diameter and 45.3 inches (115 centimeters) in length, weighs 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms) and consumes 150 watts of power.

“Northrop pitches optionally manned Firebird to monitor Australia’s coasts” –Defense News

As you may know, the Coast Guard is planning on procuring medium altitude, Long Range/Ultra Long Endurance (LR?ULE) Unmanned Air Systems to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness. I was surprised to find, there may be a contender I was not aware of, and it already has a US government customer, although who it is, is not clear at this time.

Defense News reports Northrop Grumman has proposed an optionally manned aircraft to meet an Australian  Border Force maritime surveillance requirement. The plane, the Firebird, is a product of Scaled Composites

“Firebird is a medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft with a 30-hour endurance, with a nominal payload. Chappel said the aircraft has been tested with more than 24 different intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads, which can be swapped in 30 minutes. The initial customer is the U.S. government.”

Scaled Composites is a part of Northrop Grumman now, but originally it was Burt Rutan’s  company. Rutan was known “for designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He designed the record-breaking Voyager, which in 1986 was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbitalspaceplaneSpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two-week period. With his VariEze and Long-EZ designs, Rutan is responsible for helping popularize both the canard configuration and the use of moldless composite construction in the homebuilt aircraft industry.” Now Scaled Composites functions as Northrop Grumman’s Skunk Works.

Meanwhile the Navy is also procuring unmanned systems with a similar capability in the form of another Northrop Grumman system, the MQ-4C Triton, which is a high altitude system. Hopefully there will be a sharing of information, but inevitably Navy and Coast Guard interests differ. Still the systems might prove complementary.

New Sensors for Fire Scout

170327-N-VS214-002
SAN DIEGO (March 27, 2017) A MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter sits in the hangar bay of the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released)

US Naval Institute News Service is reporting that the Navy is looking at providing better sensors, in particular a better radar, on the MQ-8C Fire Scout (the larger version).

“What’s important to us right now is making sure we have the right sensors, a good multi-function radar, some kind of passive targeting capability and the right networks to push that information to the right people at the right times.”

When the Navy finally gets around to deploying LCS to the drug transit zones, these could be very useful.

Reportedly they will provide, “…a circle of influence and sea control out to about 300 miles” although probability of detection almost certainly depends on target size and characteristics. 

The radar of choice is reportedly the Leonardo Osprey 30 active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar. This radar has no moving parts.

Leonardo’s Osprey AESA radar. The two panel configuration allows 240 degree coverage. A three panel configuration allows 360 degree coverage as on Norway’s AW101 SAR helicopters. Configurations of up to four panels are possible (Photo by Leonardo)

Aviation Week reports:

“Each antenna contains 256 Transmit and Receive Modules (TRM) – 25% more than that the single array on the Seaspray 7500E radar fitted to U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules search aircraft (also a Leonardo product–Chuck). The antennas, which can be used in several different modes including surface search, air-to-air and synthetic aperture radar and moving target indication, are controlled through a single processing unit which collects the data and displays it as presenting a single radar picture.”

They claim:

  • Class-leading maritime surveillance capability
  • AESA-enabled small target mode (STM)
  • Very high resolution, wide swath SAR Mapping
  • Small radar cross section (RCS), low minimum detectable velocity (MDV), multi-channel moving target indication (MTI)
  • Air-to-Air surveillance, track and intercept
  • Instantaneous multiple mode interleaving
  • Difficult target detection from high altitude

Ultimately as more of the “C” models are built, we might see them on Coast Guard cutters. There is also the possibility that as more of the larger “C” models come on line, the Coast Guard may be able to get some of the smaller “B” models. The “B” model did operate for Bertholf for two weeks.

The larger C model, with its higher speed, greater payload, better sensors, and 11+ hour endurance, would certainly be an improvement over the ScanEagle currently planned for the National Security Cutters. Whether the “B” model‘s presumably better sensors but shorter range/endurance would allow a greater effective search area compared to the ScanEagle I could only speculate, but I suspect it would also be an improvement, using perhaps two flights per day.

The National Security Cutters could certainly support both an H-65 and an MQ-8C, since they can support two H-65s. It is less clear if the OPC could support both. They reportedly can support an MH-60 or an H-65 and a UAS, but what size UAS?

These systems suggest that at some point, at least on our largest cutters, we may be able to relieve shipboard manned helicopters the routine search function.