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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

Rapid Equipping Force’s Afghanistan Ex Lab Transforms Soldiers’ Ideas Into Reality

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — At Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, there is a place that wants to know about your tactical problems.

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The forward team of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force or REF, wants Soldiers to bring their ideas regarding equipment on how to accomplish their missions more efficiently.

REF’s mission is to provide innovative materiel solutions to meet the urgent requirements of U.S. Army forces employed globally, inform materiel development for the future force, and on order, expand to meet the operational demands. Its focus is on immediate-need materiel solutions at the small-unit level.

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“We try to paint that picture for them that you know there’s a lot of capabilities that reside in this building, in the organization,” said Lt. Col. Scott Cantlon, REF forward team chief.

Cantlon is not new to this position as he has also spent time as the REF Forward Team chief in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan for periods in 2016 and 2017.

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“If you need something here and now and rapidly produced, if you have an idea ,a problem, and you think you have a solution in your head, you can sit down and talk with our engineers and there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to design something,” Cantlon said. “Not only design it, but prototype it, and give it to you for some operational feedback.”

The REF team in Bagram offers the capability of rapid prototyping through the Expeditionary Lab or Ex Lab.

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The engineers in the Ex Lab are capable of taking a Soldier’s concern, and if feasible, fabricating the solution through 3D printing, sewing, machining, or electrical work.

“Three-Dimensional printing has come a long way in the last 10 to 15 years. Today we have 3D printers where you can drop a design on a computer, hit print, and the next morning have a full made-out part that is of the same quality as a machine part in term of tolerance and the cavities (compartments) it can do,” said Dr. Patrick Fowler, former lead engineer of the Ex Lab, who redeployed back to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in late October.

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“And in fact, it exceeds what you can do with a machine because you can create spaces that you would never be able to reach with a tool,” Fowler said.

Fowler has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees all in mechanical engineering. Fowler volunteered for this deployment — his first — to fulfill a lifelong dream of serving in his own way with Warfighters.

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“This is the only job that I’m aware where an engineer can get a requirement directly from the Warfighter and give them something that goes out the next day on a mission and immediately get feedback, and be able to keep the Warfighter in the design loop,” Fowler said.

The Ex Lab is equipped with design software and other limited metal bending capability among other things.

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And depending on what it is, these new products can be made in limited quantities to equip Soldiers.

“We make things that have never been made before to respond to a tactical gap,” Fowler said.

“If you can imagine it, then we can make it for you,” he said. “The capabilities that we have here are broad ranging even though we use a lot of 3D printing, we can do traditional metal parts, we can do electronics fabrication, we can do programming, there’s a lot of capability here.”

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The REF, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, started in 2002 after Soldiers realized the need for non-standard equipment to meet the demands of their wartime mission.

The Ex Lab has reachback ties with the RDECOM for its expertise and additional manufacturing capabilities.

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The REF is the Army’s quick-reaction capability for getting urgent material solutions in the hands of Warfighters. It’s able to do this using a request document known as “10-Liner”, where Soldiers capture the requirements and submit.

Sometimes, the need is met with commercial and government off-the-shelf technologies. But when not available and if approved, the engineers will design and fabricate a solution to meet a Soldier’s needs.

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“The work out here, the things we do, it’s very rewarding,” said Ryan Muzii, a support engineer with the Ex lab. “We can do things no other organization can do. A Warfighter can come in with a problem and we can get after it. It’s just such a great asset.”

Muzii has nine years total working for the REF’s reachback support element, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division, whose headquarters is at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He also has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics.

As of November, Muzii will have been deployed two years to Afghanistan in support of the Ex Lab.

The time to procure and deliver nonstandard equipment. REF’s goal is to fill a requirement within 180 days.

The Ex Lab typically produces a solution in less than 30 days…sometimes in a few days depending on the requirement.

Locations and manning requirements for the REF have varied during the last 16 years based on the missions and number of personnel in theater. The REF also has forward teams in Kuwait and Iraq.

Since 2002, many new technologies have been equipped to help accomplish the mission more efficiently. Current projects include persistent duration unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare, unmanned and counter-unmanned aerial systems, expeditionary force protection and so much more.

“Honestly, practically all these projects [we do here] someone walks in on I never would have thought. I have no prior military experience … I’ve always been an engineer,” Muzii said.

“Some of the things they (Soldiers) come up with are so innovative and creative, but not reliable, you know, it’s kind of thrown together,” he said. “But a lot of times people make it work; I mean we’re the U.S. Army, we make it work.”

On January 30, 2014, the Army declared the REF an enduring capability. It now reports to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command where it will continue to support Soldiers deployed globally for years to come.

“Hey, you have this asset at your disposal. It doesn’t matter what rank you are,” said Muzii. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the CJOA-A — Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan — we will come to you. It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is, as we can help you.”

In Afghanistan, contact the REF and Ex Lab at:
DSN Unclassified:
(318) 481-6293
DSN Classified:
(308) 431-5012

Story and photos by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs (Select photos courtesy of REF PAO)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Awards Protect The Force for Development of Photovoltaic Energy Harvesting Fabrics for First Responders

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

An Award Through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program Under the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

Protect The Force Inc., a leader in design and technology for military, law enforcement, fire and rescue, has received an award to develop photovoltaic energy harvesting fabrics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

In what is the first award under the DHS S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program’s (SVIP’s). Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation, Protect The Force will provide a proof-of-concept of a photovoltaic fiber that can be woven into an energy harvesting fabric. The fabric would be used in first responder garments with a goal to provide reliable power for charging batteries or power electronics.  The award is for the first phase of a four-phase program and is valued at $199,260.

The goal of the Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation is to seek new fiber technology that can be integrated into first responder uniforms, such as daily use uniforms, with the ability to charge radios, sensors and other electronics worn on the frontlines by police officers, medical personnel. The scope of the call also includes wildland firefighter uniforms that can withstand the extreme conditions of wildfires and structural firefighter gear used when responding to building fires.

Protect The Force will work closely with Dr. Ramaswamy Nagarajan, Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UML), utilizing UML’s recently unveiled Fabric Discovery Center (FDC) facilities and with Tweave LLC to execute on this first phase of the project. UML- FDC acknowledges the support from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) that provided the funding for the acquisition of equipment that will be used in the fabrication of the photovoltaic fibers. UML-FDC also acknowledges Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), NEXTFLEX and Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) USA Institutes.

“We are honored to be the recipients of this award from the prestigious DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program,” stated Francisco J. Martinez, Protect The Force Chief Technology Officer.

“We would like to thank Dr. Nagarajan and Ms. Claire Lepont at UML-FDC for their relentless efforts in developing a winning proposal. We also appreciate the support of Tweave LLC’s General Manager Ms. Mary Reardon, as a key player in the project. We now look forward to the kick-off and execution of this project and to developing a potentially lifesaving technology to our First Responders.”

“It is estimated that the global market for energy harvesting is expected to reach $4.4 billion by 2021,” continued Mr. Martinez.  “With defense being the second most significant area of application, this segment is expected to reach approximately $845 million by 2019. The US Army is increasingly using energy harvesting in wearable devices.  First responders are also growing their use and need for equipment to aid communications, awareness, safety and improved technical ability in emergencies.”

“Our success in this program creates a great opportunity not only for our work with first responders and DHS, but for developing energy harvesting fabrics for the consumer market place including the outdoor industry, geo-textiles, marine industry and other markets,” concluded Mr. Martinez.

Trey Knight Asks You to Change His Mind

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

SOFWERX Forming SOF/Service/OGA Council for Innovation and Agile Acquisitions

Monday, September 10th, 2018

SSD readers are innovators and a quite a few of you currently serve in a variety of roles. SOFWERX is looking for innovators and is forming a council at their facility in Tampa, Florida, consisting of SOF, Military Service and OGA representatives.

The purpose is to increase and accelerate capabilities to the warfighter using agile acquisition processes and the SOFWERX platform:
• Cross leveraging networks & expertise to find best of breed and buy down risk
• Creating non-traditional technology opportunities
• Generating efficiencies through leveraged funding
• Applying flexible business methodologies
• Advancing cross cutting, high yield capabilities

For additional information visit www.sofwerx.org/council.

Proliferation of Drones Posing Risk for US Military, Army Expert Says

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

WASHINGTON — As of January 2018, over 1 million micro drones were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, with about 878,000 of those registered to hobbyists, said Dr. Juanita Christensen.

These micro drones are proliferating in other nations as well, including areas in every combatant command where U.S. forces are stationed or operating, she added.

Christensen, executive director of the Aviation and Missile, Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, spoke at the Institute for Defense & Government Advancement-sponsored Counter-UAS Summit here, Aug. 23.

The growth of drone ownership poses challenges, she said, such as identifying the unmanned aerial system, determining whether or not the unmanned aerial system is friend or foe, and, if foe, employing the right countermeasures.

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The U.S. Army is at the forefront of identifying and mitigating threats from unmanned aerial systems, including identifying the UAS, determining whether or not the unmanned aerial system is friend or foe, and, if foe, employing the right countermeasures. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo David Vergun)

UAS IDENTIFICATION CHALLENGE

It’s not just the sheer number of drones that is an issue, but also the the hundreds of UAS variants being produced worldwide, Christensen said.

Each of these variants comes in different weights, shapes, and sizes. Additionally, each has different operating characteristics such as speed, flight duration, maneuverability and payload capacity. These variations make tracking them difficult because it’s hard for radars and other surveillance systems to identify exactly what’s out there, she said.

Another reason why it’s hard to identify UASs, she said, is that many are very small and therefore have a minuscule radar signature. Additionally, some of these UAS fly very low to the ground, away from a radar’s line of sight. They also move relatively slowly, similar to the flight of a bird, and they produce very little acoustic, infrared, radio frequency, or electromagnetic signatures.

Current military radars and surveillance sensors may categorize class 1 and 2 UASs as “clutter,” and not identify them as UAS, she said, explaining that class 1 and 2 consist of micro and mini UAS, respectively. These are the UAS systems commercially available to anyone.

The second challenge is determining whether or not the UAS is being flown by a hobbyist or commercial entity for benign reasons, or by someone bent on causing harm, she said.

Any number of payloads can be placed on a UAS and they can also be used for surveillance, Christensen added, declining to get more specific for security reasons.

This identification problem is especially acute because operators often have to determine friend from foe and what action to take in just a matter of seconds.

UAS COUNTERMEASURES CHALLENGE

RDECOM has recognized the importance of countering UAS for some time now, Christensen said.

In January 2014, RDECOM stood up the Counter-UAS Community of Practice. That community coordinates counter-UAS research with all of the labs across the Army and the other services and looks for solutions from industry and academia, she said.

For example, the Army Research Laboratory, which falls under RDECOM, is working with the community to study how to defeat swarms of enemy UASs, she said. And, the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, also in RDECOM, is testing electronic countermeasures.

The community also is working with industry and academia to open new lines of effort, such as applying machine learning and artificial intelligence that will enable faster processing of data so that countermeasures can be taken much more quickly and with greater accuracy, she said.

The community is focused on class 1, 2 and 3 UAS threats, she said, explaining that class 3 consists of low-end tactical UAS. The other classes, 4 and 5, are high-end tactical and strategic UASs, respectively, that fly high and for long durations and are in the Air Force’s area of responsibility.

There are many promising lines of effort to deter a threatening UAS, she said, such as kinetic; passive, such as shooting a missile at the UAS that contains a net that deploys to take it down intact; sensitive sensors that can detect the UAS’s signatures emitted; and various types of jamming devices.

Besides going after the UAS itself, there are other efforts underway to defeat the “kill chain aspect,” she said, meaning eliminating the enemy UAS operator and the network behind it.

By David Vergun, Army News Service

PITBULL, A Wearable UAS Jammer From MyDefense

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Designed to be used in conjunction with the MyDefense WINGMAN series of drone detectors, the PITBULL jammer works against commercially available Unmanned Aerial Systems which have been adopted by threat forces due to their widespread availability. These UAS are used for reconnaissance, and with simple modifications, can be turned into smart weapons, utilizing terminal guidance or preplanned flight routes.

It will function either autonomously (when drones are detected by the WINGMAN) or manually (constant jamming), and the internal directional antennas cover the 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz and GNSS frequency bands. With its directional antennas, the PITBULL is capable of jamming a malicious drone at the distance of 1000 meters. An external active antenna will be made available to cover additional frequency bands.

Additionally, it can be mounted to PALS platforms.

Technical Specs:
Weight: 775 grams
Dimensions (D x W x H): 60x90x165mm (2.36 x 3.54 x 6.50 inch)
Battery (standby): >20 hours
Battery (continuous jamming): 2 hours
External battery: AN/PRC-148 and AN/PRC-152
Operating modes: Automated and Manual
Transmit power: 2W
Frequency bands: 2.4 & 5.8GHz
Internal antenna: 6 dBi antenna gain, EIRP of 8W (39dBm), Circular polarized, Half power beamwidth 60° hor. & ver.
Jamming range: 1,000 meters
Color: Black/Desert/Custom

mydefence.dk/military-customers/pitbull-counter-uas-jammer

SOFWERX – Illicit Finance Group

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

One of the most effective tools to counter transnational threats is the ability to identify and interrupt their financial networks.

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Illicit Finance (IF) is at the forefront of the international agenda. Governments, academia, and the financial services industry worldwide are joining forces to combat fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, cryptocurrency, international bribery, and human trafficking.

On Wednesday, 3 October, from 11:00 AM-1:30 PM, SOFWERX will host an Illicit Finance meeting where representatives from the Department of Defense, law enforcement, institutions of higher education, and the financial services industry come to share information and discuss joint-collaboration efforts at hand.

Those interested in participating should visit www.sofwerx.org/illicitfinance.

USSOCOM Solicits Technology for Hyper-Enabled Operator and SUAS Experimentation Candidates

Monday, August 20th, 2018

The United States Special Operations Command regularly hosts experiments intended to allow industry and academia to interact with operational personnel to identify technologies to enhance SOF capabilities.

This RFI is for TE 9-1:

Date: 5 through 9 November 2018

Themes: Hyper-Enabled Operator and SUAS

Location: Avon Park Air Force Range, FL

Experimentation Focus: The primary intent of this event is to highlight technologies that support USSOCOM’s Hyper-Enabled Operator concept and SUAS.

Technology areas to explore during the event include the following:
1 Information Edge. Ability to process data from wide array of sensor networks, communications channels, or partnered forces into information that is decision quality information.
1.1 Edge computing. Ability to derive useful information at the point of collection through sensor fusion and forwards processing without reliance on high- bandwidth, long haul communications.
1.2 Information visualization. Tailored information visualization that provides the right information, to the right element, at the right time. Includes tailored Heads Up Display (HUD), audio, haptic feedback, and predictive information management to identify and present relevant information during each phase of an operation.
1.3 Data transport with reduced vulnerability to intercept and detection, including optical and non-RF solutions.
1.4 Cross domain data access. Systems to securely run advanced data analytics across data sets on different domains.

2 Next generation Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR). Technologies of interest include the ability to:
2.1 Find, fix, finish, exploit and analyze.
2.2 Without owning the air domain.
2.3 Includes the space and/or cyber domains.
2.3.1 Exploit the cyber domain and digital patterns of life on social media to support ISR missions.
2.3.2 Includes high-altitude persistent solutions between traditional air and space.
2.3.3 Exploit the space domain to “fix and finish,” to include on-demand payloads.
2.4 Ability to exchange data with distant sensors to perform Time Difference of Arrival/Frequency Difference of Arrival geolocation.
2.5 Enabled by advanced automation advanced standoff multi-modal
biometrics, real-time sensor fusion, action detection, and “smart systems” that tailor collection focus and fidelity based on requirements.
2.6 Small, low power autonomously emplaced ground sensors capable of meshed operation and long-dwell. Tailorable sensors including electro optical, infrared, Hyper Spectral Imaging (HSI), LIDAR, electronic warfare, and others capable of contributing to biometric analysis from 200-1000 meters.
2.7 Precise time and position correlation to full motion video.
2.8 In modular payloads that permits installation across full range of SUAS in the next section.
2.9 Leveraging Human Language Technologies (HLT) to:
2.9.1 Reduce operator workload.
2.9.2 Reduce communications bandwidth requirements.
2.9.3 Increase probability of detecting specific speakers.
2.9.4 Increase effectiveness of unfamiliar languages.

3 Small Unmanned Aerial Systems.
3.1 Expeditionary ISR. Family of group 1-2 UAS’s, featuring modular
payloads, open architecture, small footprint and minimum logistics support. 4.3.1.1 Line of Sight (LOS) and beyond LOS data link.
3.1.2 Accurately locate targets.
3.1.3 Runway independent launch and recovery.
3.1.4 Two sensor capable, (e.g. high definition full motion video, electro optic/ infrared, electronic warfare, signals intelligence, HSI, LIDAR).
3.1.5 Autonomous operation, including meshed swarm capabilities.
3.1.6 Alternative power through environment (power lines, renewable, etc.).
3.2 Unmanned aerial blood delivery system. System must be vertical takeoff and landing capable (VTOL) or runway independent. USSOCOM will provide a blood surrogate for the event.
3.2.1 Systems should be capable of transporting a minimum of 10 pounds of blood.
3.2.2 The cold chain must be maintained and monitored throughout flight. Blood must be kept at 2-8 degrees Celsius from time of loading, transit, delivery, and unloading. Systems using passive cooling are preferred.
3.2.3 Consideration must be taken to minimize shock to blood payload for any proposed delivery concept.
3.2.4 System must have an operational range of 100 or more miles. Command and control of the aircraft must be maintained at all times.
3.3 Nano VTOL UAS
3.3.1 Extremely small, lightweight Nano VTOL UAS with a takeoff weight of 75 grams or below are desired with the following characteristics. 4.3.3.2 Day and night imaging capability.
3.3.3 Autonomous flight modes.
3.3.4 Indoor flight capability with augmented collision avoidance,
operator in the loop control.
3.4 Micro VTOL UAS
3.4.1 Small, lightweight micro VTOL UAS with a takeoff weight of 750
grams or below are desired with the following characteristics. 4.3.4.2 Day and night imaging capability.
3.4.3 All-weather capability.
3.4.4 Autonomous flight modes.
3.4.5 Autonomous indoor flight capability with collision avoidance. 4.3.4.6 Operation in Global Positioning System (GPS) denied environment and confined spaces (including subterranean).
3.5 Small Fixed Wing UAS
3.5.1 Hand launchable or VTOL fixed wing UAS with no launch or
recovery equipment (bungee, net, etc.) is desired with the following characteristics.
3.5.2 VTOL configurations not to exceed 3.5 kg takeoff weight. 4.3.5.3 All-weather capability.
3.5.4 Day and night imaging capability.
3.5.5 Autonomous flight modes with GPS denied capability. 4.3.5.6 Minimum of 90 minutes endurance at sea level.

4 Managed signature. Technologies of interest are those that help avoid physical detection by acoustic, thermal, radar, visual, optical, electro-magnetic, virtual, and near infrared means.
4.1 Technologies which help manage digital presence within the realm of social media.
4.2 Technologies that assist in providing resistance to biometric tracking.
4.3 Technologies that exploit publicly available information to obscure or deceive to deny information about actions and intentions.

5 Next generation Military Information Support Operations (MISO). Technologies should be operable in limited or denied connectivity environments.
5.1 UAS/drone supported broadcasts.
5.2 Linguist expertise and regional dialects.
5.3 Demographic and culturally adaptive.
5.4 Operable in multiple spectrums, e.g. microwave, IR, etc. 4.5.5 Real time feedback.
5.5.1 Biometrics and patterns of life. 4.5.5.2 Data analysis.

6 Human Performance and Biomedical. The optimization of SOF operator’s ability to perform at very high levels for long durations, process information and make the right decisions in a timely manner, while operating in extreme environments, under high levels of stress will significantly improve their operational effectiveness. SOF requires the capability for far-forward austere casualty care to sustain critically injured personnel until they can reach the next higher level of care. SOF medical personnel place a premium on medical technologies that are small, lightweight, ruggedized, modular, multi-use, and designed for operation in extreme environments. The equipment must be easy to use, require minimum maintenance, and have low power consumption. Drugs and biologics should not require refrigeration or other special handling.
6.1 Enhanced cognitive performance

The deadline for nomination package(s) is 10 September, 2018 at 12:00 Noon Eastern Time.

Future experiments include:

TE 9-2 Sensitive Site Exploitation/Hyper Enabled Operator, 25-29 March, 2019, at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, IN.

For full details, visit www.fbo.gov.