Tuesday, January 17, 2017
A space laser could turn the Earth's atmosphere into a giant magnifying glass and be used to spy on enemies in future wars
BAE Systems believes technological advances in the future could enable military generals to use lasers and the Earth’s atmosphere to create a magnifying effect to observe the activities of enemies over huge distances.
The aerospace and security technology firm has created a concept called a Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens – which can also be used as a deflector shield for friendly aircraft, ships and other vehicles – and works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena and temporarily changes the Earth’s atmosphere into a lens-like structure to magnify or change the path of electromagnetic waves such as light and radio signals.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, are changing the face of combat.
Whether they’re being used for surveillance or undertaking military offensives, the increased use of military drones means we’re heading towards a future where pilots keep their feet on the ground in mission control.
Britain is at the centre of the race to create the ultimate unmanned, undetectable aircraft. Here’s what you need to know about Taranis.
What is Taranis?Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis is an unmanned aerial combat vehicle drone with stealth capabilities, built by BAE Systems for the MoD. The delta-winged, finless craft was unveiled in 2010 and made a number secretive test flights between 2013 and 2015. The cost of the programme is now thought to be in excess of £200 million.
What is its purpose?The Taranis stealth drone was designed to demonstrate multiple surveillance and combat tasks that help shape the future of drone design. Tests conducted in the Australian desert have included complete stealth flight and simulated weapons release tests.
A post on the BAE website explains: “The aircraft was designed to demonstrate the UK’s ability to create an unmanned air system which, under the control of a human operator, is capable of undertaking sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile territory.”
Will Taranis see combat?No. The Taranis drone was built for demonstration purposes only, but it will inspire a fleet of aircraft that will someday see battle. However, as a result of the test, BAE says “the UK has developed a significant lead in understanding unmanned aircraft which could strike with precision over a long range whilst remaining undetected”.
How fast can Taranis fly?The Taranis stealth drone, which has a wingspan of 10 metres, can hit speeds of 700mph - exceptionally close to breaking the sound barrier. If a supersonic, pilotless plane, undetectable by radar and carrying payload of weapons sounds scary, that’s because it is.
How is Taranis flown?Taranis is flown by a specially trained ‘pilot’ who can manually control the craft from a remote location. However, it does have an autonomous flight mode in which it is trusted to ‘think’ and carry out missions of its own accord.
“It can self-navigate within a boundary of set constraints,” Jon Wiggall, the lead flight engineer said of Taranis earlier this year.
“It does have limitations on what we give it in the mission plan – it can only fly in certain areas – but it does think for itself, it will navigate, and it will search for targets.”
There’s also an automatic mode where it is programmed to follow a flight path.
How does it fly under the radar?There are a number of factors involved in the meeting of the stealth challenge, including the design and materials used in constructions.
The drone uses a secretive communication system that enables it to communicate with home base without giving away its position to would-be enemies.
BAE engineers were forced to redesign the engine inlet and exhaust in order to stop the engine’s thermal image betraying its presence to enemy radar. Conrad Banks, Rolls-Royce's chief engineer said in 2014 it was about “minimising any sign there is an engine there”.
But can Taranis achieve true stealth capability?In May this year, Paddy Bourne, chief engineer for UCAVs at BAE refused to confirm whether Taranis had been able to completely avoid radar detection during tests. Referring to the Ministry of Defence, he said “the customer is very happy.”
What’s next for Taranis?Right now it appears as though Taranis’s flying career is over. The data acquired from the trio of test flights is currently being analysed, and that knowledge will be fed into the development of new drones under the Anglo-French Future Combat Air System (AFFCAS). It’ll also inform how the RAF will use manned and unmanned jets in future combat situations.
So, what is the AFFCAS?Britain and the EU may be breaking up, but we’re still playing nice with France when it comes to security. In March, following the completion of a feasibility study, the two countries announced a £1.5 billion bilateral agreement to build prototype combat drones. Full-scale development will begin in 2017.
It sounds like something out of Star Wars, but the UK could soon be using its first laser weapons.
The British government has given a £30 million contract to the scary-sounding Dragonfire consortium to build the new weapon, which could be operational by the mid-2020s.
Several companies make up the consortium, including defence firm BAE Systems.
MBDA Missile Systems, which is part of Dragonfire, said the system could be ready to demonstrate by 2019 on both land and maritime targets.
Laser weapons appeal to the armed forces more than conventional weapons, not only because they sound cooler, but because they don’t need ammunition to fire. Instead, they only require a (pretty large) power source.
Dave Armstrong, the managing director of MBDA, said “UK Dragonfire will put the UK at the forefront of high energy laser systems” and would advance us “towards a future product with significant export potential”.
Peter Cooper, of the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said: “This is a significant demonstration programme aimed at maturing our understanding of what is still an immature technology.
“It draws on innovative research into high-power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces.”
Thursday, January 5, 2017
The UK Ministry of Defence has officially awarded a £30m contract to produce a prototype laser weapon.The aim is to see whether "directed energy" technology could benefit the armed forces, and is to culminate in a demonstration of the system in 2019.
The contract was picked up by a consortium of European defence firms.
The prototype will be assessed on how it picks up and tracks targets at different distances and in varied weather conditions over land and water.
Peter Cooper, from the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), headquartered at Porton Down, Wiltshire, said the project "draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology".
He added that this could "provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces".
The MoD has been finalising the agreement with the consortium, called UK Dragonfire, for several months, but it has now formally announced them as the winning contractor.
'Ahead of the curve'A spokesperson for the MoD told BBC News that the demonstrator was not being developed to counter any specific threat, but to assess whether such weaponry could be delivered as a capability for the armed forces.
But in general, directed energy weapons could potentially be used to destroy drone aircraft, missiles, mortars, roadside bombs and a host of other threats.
The US military has been experimenting with high energy lasers for decades. But, until recently, technical hurdles had prevented them from being used on the frontline.
However, the US Navy fielded a laser weapon system called Laws for testing on the USS Ponce during a deployment to the Arabian Gulf starting in 2014.
It hit targets aboard a small boat which was directed to speed towards the navy ship and also shot a small drone out of the sky.
The Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin, said that "truly ground-breaking projects like the Laser Directed Energy Weapon" would "keep this country ahead of the curve".
If the demonstration is successful, the first laser weapons could come into service in the mid-2020s.
The UK Dragonfire consortium comprises the companies MBDA, Qinetiq, Leonardo-Finmeccanica GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall ADG.
Jamshid Piruz was inspired by a Taliban execution video to behead a woman and was jailed for 12 years for the sick act.
But 34-year-old Piruz was allowed to cross freely into the UK from the Netherlands.
Only days after entering the country, the convicted murderer swung at two police officers investigating a burglary with a deadly claw hammer in Crawley, Sussex.
It has also been revealed that Piruz attacked a member of staff at Gatwick Airport upon entering the UK but was released.
Conservative MP Henry Smith who represents Crawley slammed the country's lack of border controls for allowing Piruz into the country.
"It is staggering that someone could assault staff at Gatwick and then a couple of days later attack two police officers."
He added: "This is an appalling example of the kind of people who are getting into the country
Piruz pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to cause GBH with intent, burglary and affray at Hove Crown Court.
He will be sentenced at a later date.
Afghanistan's National Defense and Security Forces have killed 58 militants, including two local Taliban commanders and 10 members of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, the country's Defense Ministry announced.
"In the past 24 hours, Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducted joint offensive operations in order to protect the lives and properties of people also defeating the insurgents in different parts of the country. As a result, 58 insurgents, including 2 Taliban local commanders and 10 IS members, were killed and 23 others were wounded," the ministry said in a statement issued on Tuesday, Sputnik reported.
The joint operations were held in 18 Afghan provinces, the ministry added.
Afghanistan is suffering from the subversive activities of Taliban, a militant group formed in the 1990s.
The crisis in the country has prompted the emergence of local cells of other terrorist organizations such as IS.
A self-proclaimed supporter of the Islamic State living in Suffolk told FBI agents last month after his arrest they were lucky they picked him up outside his home, according to a federal prosecutor.
Lionel Nelson Williams, who had a loaded AK-47 and 9 mm handgun inside the house, said he would have been happy to shoot it out with the agents.
But what about his elderly grandmother, with whom he lived?
“She knows when to duck,” Williams said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph DePadilla revealed more of the government’s case Wednesday during a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. DePadilla said Williams confessed to the FBI after his Dec. 21 arrest that he supported the Islamic State terror group and that he told an undercover federal agent during a nine-month investigation he wanted to martyr himself in Hampton Roads.
“It’s the only way,” Williams told the undercover agent, according to DePadilla.
The prosecutor did not say where Williams planned to attack but stressed that he said it would be local. DePadilla took that to mean Suffolk or the surrounding area.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball argued that the FBI entrapped his client. He said the First Amendment allows Williams to express support for the Islamic State, and he questioned whether his client started talking about martyrdom only because the FBI led him that way.
“Entrapment is flowing throughout this case,” Kimball said.
In light of the defendant’s interest in martyring himself, Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard ordered Williams – also known as Harun Ash-Shababi – to stay incarcerated pending his trial.
Williams, 26, was arrested last month and indicted Wednesday on one charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.
According to court documents, a former associate of Williams contacted the FBI in March to report that Williams had been posting statements on Facebook that indicated his support for the Islamic State. The associate said Williams had recently acquired an AK-47 rifle.
The report prompted the FBI to check Williams’ publicly viewable Facebook page. The agency then secretly reached out to him in April, posing online as someone connected to the Islamic State.
Following several online conversations and at least one in-person meeting, Williams contacted a man he believed was an Islamic State financier. He provided that person, who was actually with the FBI, account information for a $200 prepaid cash card.
Williams later provided the agent another $50, court documents said.
Before accepting the money, the undercover FBI agent went so far as tell Williams the money was “going to kill people.”
In November, Williams told the FBI he feared he was not “pure” enough to carry out an attack in the United States, court documents said. In December, however, he said he felt he was ready to “go forth.”
DePadilla said Williams told the FBI he was working to acquire “tools.” And, he said, Williams said he would soon see his fiancée – a Muslim woman from Brazil he’d met online – in heaven.
Two days later, the FBI moved in – securing a search warrant for Williams’ home and arresting him outside.
Kimball downplayed Williams connection to the Islamic State, arguing that $250 was not a lot of money.
“In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know how much support that would have provided,” he said.
Kimball also argued the martyrdom statements were not important.
“It was simply talk. Bravado, if you will,” he said, asking the court to release his client to the custody of his grandmother or uncle.
He noted that Williams’ uncle, who lived on the same property as Williams, works at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and has a security clearance.
Leonard said he could not release Williams. He argued Williams didn’t need a gun to carry out an attack on U.S. soil, noting recent terrorist incidents in France and Germany that involved trucks. The risk, he said, was too great.
“This is more than speech,” the judge said.