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US Navy’s submarine-hunting ship will also launch surface warfare missions

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The US Navy is altering course to expand the capability set of the “Sea Hunter,” a submarine specialist vessel, to include broader lethal weapon attachments and a set of tools to initiate electronic attacks.

“Right now, the sky’s the limit,” Sea Hunter project manager Capt. Jon Rucker said at the Surface Naval Association in Arlington, Virginia on Tuesday. But the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) wants to give the submarine-hunting drone ship a “mission portfolio” makeover.

The Sea Hunter checks in at 132-feet long, 135 tons, has a range of 10,000 miles and was designed to weather waves of up to 13 feet. What DARPA thinks to make the Sea Hunter unique, however, are sophisticated sensors which can locate virtually silent enemy submarines. Retrieving the underwater GPS coordinates of stealthy diesel-electric submarines in busy waterways is akin to “trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Adm. Frank Drennan, a senior anti-submarine warfare official said Tuesday.

The Sea Hunter belongs to the Pentagon’s “anti-submarine warfare continuous trail unmanned vessel” (ACTUV), where the agency intended to design a partially-autonomous ship to navigate naval theaters globally. DARPA hopes to have the Sea Hunter traveling autonomously for 90 days. In April 2016 the Navy celebrated the Sea Hunter’s first test firing of a payload.

By monitoring the position and movement of foreign-deployed submarines over long time frames, the goal, Rucker said, is to stop enemy submarines from lurking in strategically vital areas, perhaps the Strait of Hormuz or South China Sea.

One existing Pentagon doctrine requires a human-centric command and control center to authorize lethal force, which could potentially complicate DARPA’s quest to achieve increased self-governing transport and autonomous deadly-fire capability.

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U.S. Commandos Want This Technology for Special Forces Raids

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For Dungeons & Dragons roleplayers, part of the fun of make-believe adventure is searching for hidden chambers where the monsters keep their treasure. For that matter, it’s a familiar theme in horror movies to have villains and vampires pop out from behind walls and bookcases.

But for U.S. commandos, hidden compartments are not entertainment. They are obstacles to a successful mission to capture fugitives, or seize documents and weapons. And on a house raid in hostile territory, there isn’t a lot of time to go tapping on walls to find a stash.

That’s why U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wants a detector that can quickly spot where the loot is hidden. The goal of the research project is to develop a handheld device that can detect hidden chambers in an average-sized room (168 square feet) and at a range of about 6.5 feet during sensitive site exploitation, or SSE, operations.

The sensor should be able to penetrate to a depth of 2 feet and have enough battery power to run for forty to fifty minutes. However, while it needs to detect hidden spaces, it doesn’t need to scan the contents inside. “It doesn’t have to ‘see’ thru a metal surface/container; the presence of a metal chamber in a wall would be a suspicious indication,” SOCOM says.

Sensors that detect the presence of humans, such as infrared, acoustic or radar, already exist or are being developed. But current technology is either too bulky or too complicated, says SOCOM. But developing a handy device poses technical challenges. SOCOM emphasizes that the sensor must be able to distinguish between normal spaces in a wall, such as the gap between studs, and hidden compartments. It also must be able to function with a variety of building materials, including brick, cinder block, concrete, wood and sheet rock. “The system should be able to distinguish suspicious hidden cinder block openings vs normal cinder block voids in normal wall construction,” SOCOM adds.

And the device has to be easy to use and reliable. “For the operator to be willing to carry/operate an additional system, along with all of his other equipment, the system performance needs to be high; a system with low detection rates or high false detection rates will be left behind,” SOCOM points out.

SOCOM suggests that cutting-edge technologies such as modern radio frequency transmit/receive modules, advanced computer vision algorithms and modern computer processors may enable a solution to be found. The research proposal did contain links to a Wikipedia entry on ground-penetrating radar, and a Florida company called Ground Hound Detection Services that detects the presence of underground utilities before construction begins in an area.

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Persistent Systems unveils new Dual Channel Push-to-Talk (PTT) device for the MPU5

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Persistent Systems, LLC (“Persistent”) announced today that it is unveiling its new Dual Channel Push-to-Talk (“Dual PTT”) accessory for the MPU5. The Dual PTT, said company officials, will allow the MPU5’s audio capabilities to reach their full potential.

The Dual PTT allows the user to quickly and easily select between 16 talk groups as well as control volume levels for each talk group independently. When paired with a stereo headset, the two selected talk groups are heard in the left and right ears, and the volume level in each ear can be controlled independently.

Dual PTT will improve networked communications and eliminate extra legacy radios

With the MPU5 and Dual PTT, a single MPU5 can communicate on two talk groups either independently (by pressing a single PTT button) or simultaneously (by pressing both PTT buttons). In the past, when a user needed to communicate with two different groups (channels) of users, that user needed to carry two separate Land Mobile Radios (LMRs). Therefore, the MPU5 and Dual PTT significantly reduces size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) burdens on users.

This is possible because the MPU5 is an IP radio, where talk groups are multicast addresses, instead of an LMR radio, where channels are different RF frequencies.

Dual PTT will improve networked communications and eliminate extra legacy radios

“It used to be that a commander would have to carry a PRC-148 and a PRC-152,” said Brian Mcdonald, Field Operations Manager at Persistent. “Now the commander just carries the MPU5 and can use the Dual PTT to talk to both groups. Carrying one radio instead of two will both save money as well as reduce the load on the soldier, which is a major selling point with customers,” Mcdonald explained.

The Dual PTT also serves as the interface into the MPU5’s Radio over IP (RoIP) subsystem. Users can tether legacy LMR radio systems to the MPU5, and associate each of those radios with one of the 16 talk groups as a multicast address on the network. When an MPU5 user communicates on that talk group, the MPU5 “keys up” the LMR radio and transmits audio through it.

“For the warfighter, this means one can tether a TACSAT channel on a vehicle to the RoIP port on the MPU5 and talk on TACSAT from within a building or tunnel while carrying only an MPU5 and Dual PTT,” said Dr. Herbert Rubens, Founder and CEO of Persistent. “The MPU5’s RoIP capability is compatible with PRC-148s, PRC-152s, Tactical Satellite (TACSAT), Fires Net, Public Safety LMRs, or standard walkie-talkies, which means, for example, being able to talk to Command Net, Assault Net, Fires Net, etc. whenever it’s suddenly required by the mission.”

Persistent has begun accepting orders for the Dual PTT.

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