Sunday, May 6, 2018

Australia and France Boost Defence Ties

Staff, Defence Connect
2 May 2018

Australia's Future Submarine Program is set to benefit from an agreement between Thales and Australian and French universities that will explore deeper research collaboration across advanced sonar and naval robotics technology.
Thales signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Australia's Flinders University and France's graduate and post-graduate engineering school ENSTA Bretagne while French President Emmanuel Macron was in Australia.
The MoU aims to deepen and extend well established research linkages between Australia and France in order to contribute to the future submarine program in Australia.
"This is all about attracting the best and brightest in both Australia and France to work on the challenges of the Future Submarine program, ensuring Australia gets the best capability," Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said.
"The MOU provides a long-term framework for collaboration in naval robotics applicable to both submarine and surface ship sonars, including opportunities to share testing facilities, operate exchange programs and facilitate joint research projects. It builds on an already strong relationship between Thales and Flinders University in Australia as well as between ENSTA Bretagne and Thales in Brest, France."
Discussions between Thales, Flinders University and ENSTA Bretagne have already identified two topics for research collaboration; one to design a demonstrator for the automatic connection of electro-optical links in a maritime environment and the second for the development of USV test vehicles suitable to test autonomy algorithms on robotic swarms at sea.
"This collaboration will build Australian capability, provide internships for both undergraduate and post-graduate Flinders University students in France and contribute to design solutions for the Future Submarine program," said Alexis Morel, vice-president in charge of underwater systems at Thales.
Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the University was delighted to be partnering with Thales teams based in Australia and in France.
"This MoU will open up great opportunities for closer collaboration with Thales research laboratories and follows the recent announcement that Flinders University will be one of Thales Australia’s academic partners in the new Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems."
ENSTA Bretagne director Pascal Pinot stressed the fact the MoU was a necessary base to start new research projects between Flinders University, Thales and ENSTA Bretagne which would in turn reinforce the co-operation between the defence ministries of the two countries.
"The MoU was built in order to lead to tangible research work between us in the short term particularly in the field of underwater robotics. It builds on the strength of all three participants in the framework of the increasing bilateral defence co-operation," Pinot said.

Another Way To Define Nuclear Triad: Three Legs, Plus “Space Capability”

Sandra Erwin, Space News
1 May 2018

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon projects to spend over a trillion dollars in the coming decade on a new generation of nuclear bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles that collectively are known as the nuclear triad.
“But the triad is more than a triad,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.
Everyone talks about the vehicles and the weapons, and it’s easy to forget other “vital” components of nuclear modernization, such as the early warning network, and the communications, command and control systems, Weinstein said on Tuesday at a Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill.
All of that is entirely dependent on space, he said. “The triad also means space capability.”
Weinstein elaborated: “We need the capability of early warning satellites to know what is going on. We need an unblinking eye to find out what is going on. That unblinking eye is provided by space. We need the capability of military communications, secure military communications satellites, EMP [radiation] hardened communications.”
The classified communications network that keeps the president connected to military forces during a nuclear event — known as NC3 for nuclear command, control and communications — has not “historically been put in the triad but is vital for our defense,” said Weinstein.
The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review called out NC3 as a system badly in need of modernization, and directed the Joint Staff to consider a new governance structure for the program, now overseen by the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Protecting satellites and signals from jamming or hacking is taking on outsized importance, said the Nuclear Posture Review, as China and Russia are developing means to disrupt and disable U.S. assets in space.
“I can talk all day about the importance of NC3,” said Weinstein. “The president has to communicate with forces. We need command posts that can take over those missions. Then you need the processes and procedures so that crew members know that a message is authentic and valid,” he said. “That is foundational to this nuclear force.”
The Joint Staff review of NC3 was due to be presented to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis May 1. U.S. Strategic Command’s Gen. John Hyten also has been closely involved in the review as he is responsible for defining the requirements of the system.
The NC3 includes warning satellites and radars; communications satellites, aircraft, and ground stations; fixed and mobile command posts; and the control centers for nuclear systems. The Nuclear Posture Review said many of these systems use antiquated technology that has not been modernized in almost three decades.
There are central questions that need to be answered, said Weinstein. “What should that future architecture look like? We are modernizing systems now and need to make sure we have connectivity into AEHF satellites.” AEHF are classified communications satellites that can be used for both conventional and nuclear missions.
The Air Force has programs under way to modernize communications and early-warning satellites. How these future constellations will be integrated with NC3 is one piece of the enormously complex architecture.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that modernizing the NC3 will cost $58 billion over 10 years.
Hyten said modernizing the NC3 is critical because a decade from now the Pentagon will start rolling out the next generation of nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines whose command and control systems most certainly will not be compatible with a network designed in the 1960s.
The future ground-based leg of the triad — known as the ground-based strategic deterrence — will be a network of 400 missile silos that require redundant and assured communications. The current Minuteman 3 nuclear missile silos are spread across three Air Force bases and connected by 30,000 miles of copper wire buried deep beneath the ground. It’s highly reliable but low bandwidth communications.
The contractors that are competing for the potentially $50 billion to $60 billion GBSD program — Boeing and Northrop Grumman — have to come up with options for upgrading communications for cyber security but also to improve Air Force crews’ quality of life in their underground bunkers.
Weinstein said the Air Force is increasing the cyber and space-related portion of the curriculum for officers in the nuclear career field. “We need a next generation of leaders that can talk about this,” he said of the broader policy and technology issues associated with nuclear modernization. “The atrophy that happened a few years ago when we weren’t modernizing the nuclear force, when we did that there was a lack of strategic thinking,” Weinstein said. “Human capital development is more important than when you just talk about things.”
The training of the force is not a concern, he said. “We know how to train people. I’m talking about educating the workforce, civilians too,” he added. “Everyone in the U.S. Air Force needs to understand the value of the nuclear force, just like everyone in the U.S. Air Force needs to understand the value of the space force. … Strategic deterrence in the 21st century is more than just nuclear. It’s space, cyber and conventional.’

The US Military Wants Giant Transformer Robot Subs

Patrick Tucker, Defense One
1 May 2018

DENVER, Colorado — Want to de-mine a patch of ocean floor in hostile waters, deposit classified payloads off an enemy coast, shut off a broken oil valve, or just fight krakens? Texas-based startup Houston Mechatronics on Tuesday unveiled a giant, transforming robotic submarine, partially backed by the Defense Department, for deep-sea precision missions.
The Aquanaut unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, can chug beneath the ocean’s surface for hundreds of kilometers and then transform into a vaguely insect-like robot to perform delicate operations in the watery depths. Its biggest backers are players in the oil and gas exploration like Transocean, which are looking to better maintain oil rigs, offshore equipment, and help with operations. Houston Mechatronics co-founder and chief technical officer Nicholas Radford said the robots might would travel from site to site, like a frog swimming from one lily pad to another without ever having to be pulled out of the water. “‘We intend to blanket the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.
While big oil is the primary investor, the Defense Department — through a cooperative research and development agreement with the Navy — is also supporting the project. Radford expects additional financial funding from other sources within the military soon. The near-term objective is counter-mine missions “in area-denied water, or where you don’t want the presence of a top-side vessel,” he said.
The robot, which can extend from 2.87 meters to 3.5 meters with its arms out, can travel hundreds of kilometers between sites. Once the arms come out, the operator directs the puppet show over an acoustic modem with a range of tens of kilometers.
“Autonomy is a big deal,” especially for military customers, said Radford, but added that for the difficult arm manipulation operations, “We think you can get higher realizations of value in theatre with a human still in the loop [operating the robot] at a low data rate.”

Macron Looks Beyond Submarines To Forge Closer Ties With Australia

 Nicole Trian, France24
1 May 2018

Forging closer ties to advance security, trade and strategic interests will be at the forefront of Franco-Australian talks when French President Emmanuel Macron visits Australia on Tuesday.
The three-day visit from May 1 will be Macron’s first to Australia as president and, in contrast to his recent trip to Washington, it is likely to be far lighter on pomp and grandeur.
Macron will meet with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss further cooperation on security in the Asia-Pacific region, climate change and a greater commitment to cultural exchange.
The French president’s trip comes at a time of strengthening ties between Australia and France, which received a major boost in December 2016 when the two countries signed a submarine deal worth €32 billion. Australia awarded the contract to the Naval Group (formerly DCNS), a French naval company, to build a fleet of diesel-electric submarines.
The importance of Macron’s visit, however, goes beyond simply plugging submarines.
Talk of opportunities to bind the countries more closely was first publicly broached during a visit by Turnbull to Paris last year. Macron told a press conference then that the submarine deal was “not simply a contract” but had elevated the two countries' broader economic relationship to its highest level ever.
The elevation of the Franco-Australian relationship comes as US President Donald Trump continues to pursue both protectionist and isolationist policy agendas. In March, trade officials from both the EU and the US hit out at plans by Washington to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. With Trump's tariff plan in the works along with his earlier decisions to withdraw the US from two global trade agreements – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), including the EU and the Trans-Pacific trade deal (TTP), including Australia – France and Australia have, arguably, never had a higher stake in furthering their trade interests.
Trump ditches deals
In January 2017 Trump said he would abandon the TTP ending a United States foreign policy push, begun under Barack Obama, to create a free trade zone with the
Pacific rim. It initially dealt a blow to Australia’s efforts to increase and capitalise on existing trade in a market that includes 10 other nations – Japan, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Although the accord – newly named the TPP-11 – was signed on March 9 without the US, Turnbull has continued to advocate for Trump’s return to the deal that in its original form is estimated to be worth €251 billion in global trade. Though last February, Turnbull’s efforts proved fruitless when at a joint press conference in Washington, Trump declared that TPP “was a bad deal for the US” and that he preferred “to be able to negotiate with one country”.
Macron has made his own attempts to persuade Trump to reconsider working with the EU on multilateral agreements and to shift away from an “America First” approach.
However Macron’s powers of persuasion are unlikely to revive the failed TTIP trade agreement between the EU and the US, despite what observers have labelled as France’s "special" relationship with the US. Trump, who reneged on the proposed pact not long after he came to power, has retained his protectionist stance. While the deal’s collapse put the EU trading bloc offside, it managed to replace it with another free trade deal, CETA, which it signed with Canada.
Australia seeking further European ties
The EU could benefit from France’s burgeoning new alliance with Australia if the far-flung Asia-Pacific nation succeeds in its bid to enter a free trade agreement with the union.
Turnbull has already talked of striking a free trade agreement between Australia and the European Union by the end of 2019, calling it “a realistic but ambitious project”.
Just ahead of Macron’s visit, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that Australia was anxious to deepen ties with other European countries, reaffirming its goal to trade with the EU.
Reciprocal trade between Australia and the EU was €60 billion in 2015-16, making it Australia’s second largest trading partner as well as its largest source of foreign investment.
A removal of trade barriers would be a boon to Australian exporters, including its growing services sector, which did business with Europe to the value of €6.5 billion in 2015–16.
Opening markets between Europe and Australia has added economic merit given Britain is poised to leave the EU and Macron is on a mission to save the European project in the face of growing political and economic fault lines.
While Australia is expected to warmly welcome the French president, relations between the two countries have not always been cordial. They hit their worst when in 1985 French intelligence agents blew up a Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland harbour. Although the bombing occurred in neighbouring New Zealand, many Australians considered it an act of terror, and within their backyard. Ties had weakened even earlier during France's nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific that began in 1966 and only ended in 1996.
With the current climate of geopolitical instability, an increasingly isolationist US foreign policy and threats to the foundations of the European project all preoccupying the French presidency, the ties forged with Australia could just reinvigorate political capital – and faith – in global trade.

Can the U.S. Navy Brave the Waves of Autonomous Warfare?

Olivia Miltner, Ozy
1 May 2918

It was January 1945, and the Nazis knew the end was near. The German ocean liner Wilhelm Gustloff, designed to accommodate 1,900, was packed with more than 10,000 soldiers and refugees when it ventured into the freezing Baltic Sea, part of efforts to evacuate two million Germans out of eastern Prussia and away from an advancing Soviet army. But a Soviet submarine spotted the ship and fired three torpedoes into it, killing more than 9,000, including 5,000 children.
More than seven decades later, the United States Navy is trying to reduce some of the risks of maritime warfare highlighted by the Gustloff’s end, which remains the deadliest maritime disaster in history — at a time when Secretary of Defense James Mattis has signaled a return of America’s security focus on “great power competition.” Traditional ships are expensive to build and carry enough personnel to turn any midsea mishap into a potential financial and human disaster. So the U.S. Navy, which has sought automated solutions to technical and operational challenges for decades, is increasingly turning to autonomous vehicles with the hope they can improve the efficiency and range of naval capabilities while decreasing their cost.
The Navy’s plans span surface, air and undersea platforms. In early February, the Office of Naval Research took over a prototype of the Sea Hunter, a surface-level submarine-hunting drone ship, from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In December 2017, the ONR successfully demonstrated an autonomous helicopter flight that is part of an autonomous aerial cargo/utility system (AACUS) program in collaboration with American technology firm Aurora Flight Sciences. Apart from dozens of disclosed autonomous underwater vehicles already in operation, the Navy established its first underwater drone squadron in September 2017. In December, President Trump signed a bill authorizing almost $8 billion to submarine programs. And defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing are developing fully automated submarines called extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles (XLUUVs).
The shift toward autonomous vehicles is sparking ethical questions for the Navy. How much can you trust a machine loaded with other machines to always function properly, and how much power should they have? But autonomous vehicles could prove cheaper to run, and because the lives of sailors wouldn’t be at stake, they could assume a greater level of risk than a manned ship at a time when the U.S. is particularly vulnerable at sea. AUVs will help “improve and expand undersea superiority,” the Navy said in 2016 testimony to Congress. The Navy’s new focus on these technologically advanced weapons systems comes at a time the Department of Defense has unveiled the Trump administration’s first National Defense Strategy, summarized by Mattis in a January speech, where he said that “great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”
“We’re in a period now where war at sea is dangerous,” says Steven Wills, strategy and policy analyst at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, Virginia. “Potential adversaries have better weapons than they’ve had in the past, and these weapons have proliferated to more places.”
Countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran have large arsenals of cruise missiles, which are relatively cheap but can cause a significant amount of damage. Other groups, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels, have also been able to acquire them — and tend to use them indiscriminately. Autonomous vehicles, in response to these threats, are more expendable. They can augment a fleet and do search and reconnaissance, says Dan McLeod, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for the Orca, an XLUUV the company is designing for the Navy.
In the air, an unmanned helicopter armed with AACUS sensors and software can take supplies from a base, select the optimal route and best landing site closest to fighters on the front lines, land, resupply and return to base — all with a finger tap on a hand-held tablet. The Seahunter drones are designed to autonomously carry out 70 daylong sea surface patrols at a time, as far out from base as 10,000 nautical miles. And the XLUUVs that Boeing and Lockheed Martin are building for the Navy would have an extended range, the ability to deliver a variety of payload and the capability of operating independently of manned ships. In July, the DARPA also contracted BAE Systems to build a small unmanned underwater vehicle that would help detect enemy submarines.
This concerted rush marks a departure from the isolated use of underwater unmanned vehicles in the past. The Navy sent UUVs to search for an Argentine submarine that disappeared in South Atlantic waters in November, and had used them as far back as 2003 to clear an Iraqi port of mines. But many of its AUVs are working on sea-sensing and mine-countermeasure tasks “with human-in-the-loop supervision,” the Navy said in the 2016 report to Congress. By 2025, it expects AUVs to support undersea warfare by going into denied waters that are too deep or too shallow for manned platforms — and the military, some experts anticipate, will lead the development of these technologies rather than the commercial sector. AUVs that can comprehend “purpose,” are able to execute missions and can make decisions are already on the way; they will
present their own ethical dilemmas, apart from questions of trust and responsibility.
The extent to which warfare functions will become automated is a moral issue for much of the military, says naval historian and strategist Norman Friedman. “If you actually kill somebody, in theory, anyway, you’d prefer to have someone responsible for doing it,” Friedman says, adding that increasingly, that’s already becoming difficult to do. Putting human lives at the mercy of a machine also relies on trust that the system is going to do what it’s supposed to do while simultaneously balancing that with the level of risk one is willing to accept. To McLeod, the question is, “Trust under what risk profile?”
Still, the debate over the specifics of what autonomy will — and should — look like isn’t challenging the fundamental argument for such technology: that it could help the U.S. maintain its dominance at sea. The conundrum? The technology could simultaneously end up posing as many questions as the answers it provides.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Russian 'Doomsday Machine' Nuke Could Wipe Out Coastal Infrastructure With 300ft Tsunamis

Sara Malm, The Daily Mail
24 April 2018

     Russia's new nuclear drone submarine could be capable of causing 300ft-high tsunamis, able to wipe out coastal cities, experts say.
    The existence of the drone, believed to be the Status-6 system - also known as 'Putin's doomsday machine' - was confirmed by the Russian President himself in his annual state-of-the-nation speech in Moscow last month.
     Experts say a 50 megaton underwater nuclear bomb would be able to create tsunami waves reaching more than 320ft - the 'Status-6' is allegedly able to carry a 100 megaton warhead.
     The Status-6 is reported to have a range of up to 6,200 miles with top speeds of 56 knots, and an ability to carry nuclear warheads within range of the US.
      In his speech on March 1, Putin said the high-speed underwater drone also has an 'intercontinental' range and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities.
     He said its operational depth and high speed would make it immune to enemy intercept, adding: 'It's just fantastic!'
     Physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher Rex Richardson told Business Insider that an underwater warhead dropped by the drone could destroy coastal cities.
      'A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 megatons to 50 megatons near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami [In Japan which killed nearly 16,000 people], and perhaps much more.
      'Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible.'
      Mr Richardson added that such an underwater nuclear bomb dropped off the coast of the United States would be able to cause catastrophic damage to cities such as Los Angeles or San Diego through radioactive fallout rains.
      The 'Status-6' was one of several new nuclear weapons which President Putin announced as having undergone tests in recent months.
     In the state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said the arsenal include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new hypersonic missile and showed video footage the launch of a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile on big screens.
     During his speech, Putin said the creation of the new weapons has made NATO's U.S.-led missile defense 'useless,' and means an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia's development.
     Speaking of the new arsenal, Putin said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defense.
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Russia Creates Submarine Drone Capable of Diving at 12,000 Meters Depth

Staff, Maritime Herald
24 April 2018 
    The Russian Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) is developing a new unmanned submarine capable of submerging the deepest point of the ocean.
    “Two years from now, we will complete the construction of an underwater vehicle that can sink to a depth of 12 kilometres,” the company’s president, Aleksei Rakhmanov, told Ekho Moskvy radio.
The St. Petersburg Malakhit company, which is responsible for the development of the unmanned underwater vehicle, is carrying out the construction of another underwater drone that can reach 6,000 meters deep today, the director of OSK said.
     Earlier reports surfaced on the successful performance of the Morskaya Ten (Navy Shadow) underwater glider tests capable of advancing through submarine currents without being detected by sonars.