Advances in unmanned military tools and vehicles have come on leaps and bounds, but, until now, we haven't seen a weapon firing drone operating in the seas. A recent test taking part offshore near Maryland saw several missiles launched from a new remote-controlled inflatable-hulled ship. While the Navy has used drones before for mine clearing and other defensive tasks, the small boat (similar to that pictured above) is the first experiment to involve true offensive capabilities. The almost zodiac-like craft has been an ongoing project over recent years, and contains a fully automated system which the Navy calls a "Precision Engagement Module" which uses an Mk-49 mounting with a dual missile launcher manufactured by Rafael. The hope is that such vehicles could patrol the coastline, or serve as a first defense against pirates, and other such small, fast-moving seafaring dangers. If you want to catch it in action, head past the break for the video, but don't be fooled. While it might look like a series of misses, the Navy claims this is just a trick of the camera angle, with all six missiles apparently making contact.Permalink | | Email this | Comments
Tasked with mine detection and eradication in the Persian Gulf, the US Navy has sent a fleet of unmanned submarines to help keep the Strait of Hormuz open in Iran. Dubbed the SeaFox, each vehicle houses an underwater TV camera, sonar and a dose of explosives. Tipping the scales at less than 100 pounds, the subs are about four feet in length and are controlled via fiber optic cable that sends the live feed back to the captain of each ship. SeaFoxes can dive to depths of 300 meters and boasts a top speed of six knots. The units are thrust into action from helicopters, small rubber boats and off the rear of minesweepers and are capable of disposing of the aforementioned weapons of both the floating and drifting sort. There is one small catch: the $100,000 submarine destroys itself in the process, making each successful trek a suicide mission of sorts.Permalink | | Email this | Comments
We spend hundreds of hours on board a variety of airplanes each year, most often en-route to a trade show or product launch event, but occasionally we have a rare opportunity to hop on board military aircraft, to test out unrelated products, or, even more unusually, to take a seat behind the yoke. Sadly that's not what we're doing today -- well, not exactly. We are taking a closer look at the F-35 fighter jet at Lockheed Martin's Fighter Demonstration Center just outside our nation's capital, but, being in the middle of a corporate complex, there's no actual Lightning II on hand. We were able to take a simulated ride, however -- this isn't your ordinary 4D sickness-inducing amusement park thrill. The F-35 is by far the most advanced Lockheed jet to date, with updated radar, all-internal weapons, improved tracking systems, 360-degree infrared coverage with a visor readout, and a full-stealth design, not to mention the incredibly capable glass cockpit powered by more than 9.3 million lines of software code, and an overall smoother experience for pilots that could end up spending shifts of 12 hours or longer in flight.
The F-35 has already seen plenty of field time in the US, with more than 500 flights already in 2012, and it's set to make its way to the UK armed forces next week and the Netherlands later this year, but while the aircraft is quite familiar to the pilots tasked with flying it, the public hasn't had an opportunity to experience Lockheed's latest airborne warrior. We flew a simulated mission within a grounded duplicate of the flyable F-35 cockpit, and the capabilities and improvements are quite clear -- you definitely don't want to encounter an F-35 from a previous-generation aircraft. The dual 8 x 10-inch touch-enabled displays combine to give you 8 x 20 inches of real estate, with dedicated modules for the weapons systems, targeting, and navigation easily accessible -- you can also move them to different panels depending on your current objective. A pair of joysticks at the left and right side provide direct access, letting you move a cursor to track enemy crafts or ground-based targets as well, and a very slick heads-up-display mounted in the helmet provides infrared mapping and instrument readouts. Overall, it seems to be an incredibly powerful system. Unfortunately, the mock-up on display here isn't accessible to the public, but you can join us for a behind-the-scenes look just after the break.Permalink | | Email this | Comments
Disagreement between passionate Windows and Mac OS diehards have caused many a kerfuffle on the Interwebs. When it comes to the tactical control system of the US Navy's autonomous vertical take-off-and-landing craft, however, the military branch is putting its money on a different operating system. The Navy just awarded a contract worth nearly $28 million to Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems to transition its VTOL drones to using its own flavor of good, old Linux. Eventually, the Navy plans to have 168 Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Navy Fire Scout drones rocking the OS as part of its fleet. The Register reports that the move was likely made for security reasons following a malware attack on the Air Force's Windows-based drone system last year. Add Samsung's recent inclusion into the Platinum ranks of Linux's core supporters and you really can't blame fans of the operating system if they decide to wear shades while pondering its future.
[Image credit: Northrop Grumman]Permalink | | Email this | Comments