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What Is the Military Researching? A Look at the Latest Round of Solicitations

By lostincali in Technology
Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 02:03:58 AM EST
Tags: DoD, SBIR, military, transparent armor (all tags)

The U.S. Department of Defense puts out, on a quarterly basis, solicitations for research on topics that are of interest to the various service branches and agencies that inhabit the Pentagon. Their SBIR program targets its solicitations at small businesses looking to do cutting edge work on the government dime. Aside from their obvious value to the many small defense contractors throughout the nation, they also provide information on the direction of military development and some insight into some of the more exotic ideas coming out of the defense research establishment. The following topics have been selected from the latest solicitation in the hopes of provoking serious discussion or at least laughter. Let us continue...


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AF093-224 (AirForce): Non-Lethal Avian Active Denial System Using Directed Energy

Repurpose directed energy active denial systems originally designed for human crowd control to keep birds away from active runways. Since one cannot always rely on having the Hudson River available as an emergency landing site, this may eventually see use at civilian airports.

AF093-002 (AirForce): Ground Mobility and Landing Gear for a Bird-Sized Perching Micro Air Vehicle

There seems to be an ongoing program at AFRL to develop a bird-mimicking vehicle that perches on power lines to recharge. Given the success of AeroVironment's Nano Air Vehicle project, this is not nearly as far-fetched as it first seems. Currently, the constraints of designing such small air vehicles are such that on-board power sources provide extremely limited flight time, so harvesting energy from the environment makes sense. The fact that birds tend to naturally congregate on power lines is an intriguing coincidence.

N093-167 (Navy): Automated Marine Mammal Mitigation Sensor for Multi-Static Active ASW

On a first read, it would seem that this work is in response to the trouble that the Navy has had with lawsuits from environmentalists over the harmful effects that active sonar have on marine mammals. However, it is also well-known that the Navy operates a program involved in training dolphins to perform various military tasks, such as patrolling the waters of naval bases for divers. While the first explanation may seem more plausible, it is curious that the Navy would then include the following addendum:

"The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been be implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material In Accordance With DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract."
Hmm...

AF093-109 (AirForce): Cost Reducing Processing Development of High Performance Transparent Armor

I'm not sure how much better aluminum oxynitride is over your standard bullet-proof glass, but it's probably not the same thing given that even the military considers it expensive.

N093-223 (Navy): Low Cost Orbital Debris Removal System

Far from being research on an anti-satellite weapon (the US military already has plenty of those), this seems more concerned with cleaning up the aftermath of an anti-satellite strike. Blowing up a satellite will naturally leave a cloud of debris circling the Earth at ~18,000 miles per hour. Such debris pose a hazard to everything else in orbit, as a collision at such velocities would almost certainly be lethal to any manned vehicle and could degrade or destroy the capabilities of unmanned satellites. Since space junk is an old problem that has been getting increasingly worse in the past few years, it's nice to see the Navy getting behind an effort to clean up some of the garbage.

...

I would share the DARPA topics here as well, but frankly they are mostly targeted at computer science weenies and are thus of little interest to me. You may, however, browse them at your leisure.

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Poll
Favorite solicitation:
o Bird zappers 0%
o Bird robots 31%
o Dolphin detection 6%
o Transparent armor 12%
o Space junk 37%
o WIPO 0%
o I am a CS weenie 12%

Votes: 16
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o latest solicitation
o active denial systems
o having the Hudson River available as an emergency landing site
o Nano Air Vehicle
o browse them
o Also by lostincali


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What Is the Military Researching? A Look at the Latest Round of Solicitations | 38 comments (34 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
it seems clear that all this research (3.00 / 2) (#3)
by yellow shark on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 12:55:16 AM EST

is being conducted in order to remove obama from politics in 2012.

at least, that is how it reads to me.

that's how it reads to you? really? (none / 1) (#6)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:37:44 AM EST

did you take your medication today?

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

Low Cost Orbital Debris Removal System (3.00 / 5) (#4)
by Booji Boy on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 02:16:36 AM EST

I work on orbit debris for the Can/US military. There is no low cost removal system. There isn't even a high cost one. Funny wish list altogether. +1 fp.

So what's the current solution? (none / 1) (#14)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:27:41 PM EST

Try to track every piece down to a dime's size and hope you can move the important stuff out of the way in time? How do you even detect the small pieces?

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

Don't think they do (3.00 / 3) (#21)
by some nerd on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 09:23:04 AM EST

Anything that's going to be up there for a while e.g. ISS has "bumper" shields which are basically spaced armour made from aluminium, kevlar etc. This is supposed to deal with the <= 1cm stuff.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]
Yes. (3.00 / 6) (#23)
by Booji Boy on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:01:35 PM EST

Everything in LEO around say the size of a golf ball is tracked (~20,000 objects at the moment). LEO objects are tracked with very powerful phased array radars. Collision probabilities are calculated for the entire space catalog everyday. Things that are likely to collide MIGHT be notified depending on who owns them. Of course only say 200 out of those 20,000 objects have any fuel on board to move.

Things higher up, in say GEO or GPS orbits, are tracked with telescopes. Up there we miss anything smaller than a breadbox, but there's plenty more room to navigate.

[ Parent ]

Fascinating, thank you. (none / 1) (#25)
by lostincali on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:11:15 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

You need to either boil the Earth's atmosphere (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Pentashagon on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 04:04:48 PM EST

or get some good mm-band radar stations in space to look for stuff.

Maybe get some RF up there powerful enough to put light pressure on the small debris to push it into thicker atmosphere.

[ Parent ]

Interesting stuff (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by some nerd on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 08:16:44 AM EST

I like the last DARPA topic too: store "space module" re-entry energy somehow for propulsion or other purposes. ICBM / MIRV active countermeasure evasion? The newer Russian ones already do that (hence why the US wants ABMs stationed near their border, they're more vulnerable in their boost phase.)

+1fp.

--
Home Sweet Home

Thank you. (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:23:50 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

The obvious missing one: (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 03:03:30 PM EST

Untraceable Human Removal System

Obama has to do something to outperform Richard M and Richard J, after all...


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
Also Bill C (3.00 / 4) (#11)
by some nerd on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:02:02 PM EST

hirez. High Times did a piece on this that's pretty convincing, but I don't think it's online anywhere.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]
-1, a useless POS that is typical of this site (2.66 / 3) (#10)
by Korean Loller Blader on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 06:46:59 PM EST


D'oh! I can't seem to talk to the mod_
Oh, a CS weenie (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:23:23 PM EST

That's ok, I even included a poll option for you.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

I couldn't be farther from having ANYTHING (3.00 / 4) (#16)
by Korean Loller Blader on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 08:09:29 PM EST

to do with CS. Only guys that couldn't make it as Auto Mechanics bother doing CS. It's the least useful use of anyone's time.
D'oh! I can't seem to talk to the mod_
[ Parent ]
Oh, a CS weenie in denial. (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 09:15:22 PM EST

Sorry for outing you, that wasn't very nice of me. Carry on.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

You really suck at thiss. Go back to husi and (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by Korean Loller Blader on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:39:39 PM EST

write your recipes.
D'oh! I can't seem to talk to the mod_
[ Parent ]
no yuo (none / 1) (#27)
by lostincali on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:47:42 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

regarding N093-167 (2.25 / 4) (#15)
by Liar on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 07:36:05 PM EST

I'm not sure why you would suspect dolphins based on the part you cited. The sponsoring agency is NAVAIR, which is responsible for airborne systems like helos, tomcats, missiles... things which fly. Perhaps its pointing out the obvious, but dolphins can't fly.

In the proposal, they indicate that the system has to fit into the constraints of a buoy. These aren't big, but they aren't so small as to fit easily on a dolphin.

So, it's pretty clear they want to air drop these buoys in order to steer a course for the fleet. Since it deals with naval aviation systems (and more specifically, they probably want to avoid these active sonar devices from interfering with anything aboard the craft which will deploy them), they slap the clearance requirement on there.


I admit I'm a Liar. That's why you can trust me.
sir, you did miss the part about 'marine mammals'. (none / 1) (#18)
by lostincali on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 09:17:03 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

not entirely sure what you mean. (2.25 / 4) (#19)
by Liar on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 10:36:49 PM EST

Do you mean to put them on the dolphin or to detect enemy dolphins? I wasn't aware of a dolphin arms race that would require research, so if they're trying to find dolphins, it's much more likely for the very reason you think: to avoid lawsuits. If it comes in handy against enemy dolphins, bonus.

If it's to put them on a dolphin, well, the sonobouy dimensions they'll permit are big enough to not really be practical, I'd think.

The Navy already can detect marine life. It looks like they're just looking for a better way. My thinking would be: if you're trying to find enemy dolphins, you probably wouldn't mind blinding them with a 300dB ping.


I admit I'm a Liar. That's why you can trust me.
[ Parent ]
Mr President! (none / 0) (#32)
by basj on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 06:06:10 AM EST

We must not allow A DOLPHIN GAP!
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]
more (none / 1) (#28)
by Liar on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 02:39:28 PM EST

I think that research is directly related to this article.

Full disclaimer: I work for NavAir but have no personal knowledge (direct or indirect) about this program.


I admit I'm a Liar. That's why you can trust me.
[ Parent ]
Pax River? (none / 0) (#30)
by lostincali on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 05:41:11 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

North Island /nt (none / 1) (#31)
by Liar on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 08:44:54 PM EST




I admit I'm a Liar. That's why you can trust me.
[ Parent ]
Correction (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by Sgt York on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 10:58:53 AM EST

Perhaps its pointing out the obvious, but dolphins can't fly....yet.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

I am interested in invisible armour (3.00 / 4) (#20)
by Trollaxor on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 11:22:04 PM EST

and its inevitable march toward Predator suits. This is a useful summary of such tech.

This story (3.00 / 5) (#24)
by Trollaxor on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:03:02 PM EST

is clearly the only one in the queue of late that belongs on the front page alongside my own works.

Why Sonar is a big deal (none / 0) (#33)
by James Andrix on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 02:47:41 PM EST

Sonar is about subs, and subs carry nukes.
The Navy will at some point want to give the contractor their latest intelligence Russian and Chinese propulsion systems, hence the security requirements.

Nuclear submarines have a decades long cat and mouse game going on, and the contractors have to deal with that baggage. Robotic birds are relatively unladen.
3D Printers are awesome.

was this comment generated by a program? (none / 1) (#36)
by lostincali on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 07:49:29 PM EST


"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

Tell me more about generated by a program (none / 1) (#37)
by James Andrix on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 08:14:58 PM EST


3D Printers are awesome.
[ Parent ]
Seems US-centric (none / 0) (#34)
by a boy and his bike on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 07:10:11 PM EST

Don't know if the military is backing this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaks
but I would be surprised if it weren't.

of course it's US-centric (none / 0) (#35)
by lostincali on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 07:48:35 PM EST

and no, i doubt the US military is backing a russian concept that was developed in response to an existing US capability.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#38)
by a boy and his bike on Sun Aug 02, 2009 at 11:21:08 AM EST

I meant the Russian military. The headline just said "military". This is a big ol' planet we're on.

[ Parent ]
What Is the Military Researching? A Look at the Latest Round of Solicitations | 38 comments (34 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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