Kris Osborn October 26, 2016
F-35 pilots will eventually be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions, according to Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias.
Currently the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. In the future, however, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Zacharias said several months ago in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board a Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying, ‘I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW [electronic warfare] countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,’” he explained. “A high-powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent — without have humans manage each individual task.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and [in] more platform-oriented autonomous systems,” he said.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology are already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may be able to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, several humans are often needed to control a single drone, but new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10– or even 100 — drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself — without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain predetermined locations, often called “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the massive amount of ISR video collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘Hey, I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,’” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientists and weapons’ developers consider human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight, fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore removing the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
Republished with permission of Defense Systems, where Kris Osborn serves as editor-in-chief.
Source: National Interest “The F-35’s Latest Trick Might Change Warfare As We Know It”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
CCTV says in its prime time news yesterday that China has mastered the technology to ensure stable production of shale gas in its shale gas field in Fuling, Chongqing.
The shale gas field has so far turned out 8.15 billion shale gas. China has thus joined the club of a few countries able to exploit shale gas on large commercial scale.
It is expected that China will enable the shale gas field to have the capacity of 10 billion cubic meters a year within the period of the 13th 5-year plan (2016-2020).
Source: CCTV “Stable production achieved at Fuling shale gas field” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
By J.R. Wu | TAIPEI Sun Oct 30, 2016 | 5:59am EDT
China is embarking on a divide-and-rule campaign on self-ruled Taiwan, offering to boost tourism to pro-Beijing towns and counties while giving the new pro-independence government the cold shoulder, government officials and politicians say.
Whether Beijing’s promises materialize remains to be seen, but the political rift is pressing Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to come up with measures of its own to counter an alarming decline in mainland tourists.
Eight Taiwanese local government officials, mainly representing counties controlled by the China-friendly opposition Nationalist Party, were promised greater tourism and agricultural ties when they met China’s top Taiwan policymaker in Beijing last month.
And this week, Communist Party Chief and Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet Nationalist Party chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu when she visits Beijing during an annual party-to-party gathering about economic and cultural ties.
In contrast, Beijing has withheld official communication with the government of DPP leader and President Tsai Ing-wen, until it agrees to recognize the “one-China” policy.
“The Chinese government has put political conditions relevant to Taiwan surrendering our sovereignty and our right to determine our own future on the outflow of tourists to Taiwan and that’s what makes this a very politically complicated issue,” said Hsiao Bi-khim, a DPP lawmaker for Hualien, on Taiwan’s east coast.
Hsiao and the Hualien county chief, an ex-Nationalist who went to Beijing last month, do not see eye to eye on tourism development.
“We have to condemn this divide-and-conquer strategy and also individual politicians who seek to play into the Chinese divide-and-conquer strategy,” Hsiao said.
ONLY ONE CHINA
China says Taiwan is part of one China, ruled by Beijing. It regards the island as a renegade province, to be united by force if necessary, and ties have become strained since Tsai took office in May.
The previous Nationalist administration agreed to recognize the “1992 consensus”, which states that there is only one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what that means.
The eight officials who went to Beijing came home to a storm of criticism for being lackeys to Beijing’s one-China policy.
One of them, Liu Tseng-ying, chief of Matsu, a group of small islets off China’s Fujian province but held by Taiwan, told Chinese officials that he wanted more Chinese to visit Taiwan’s smallest county.
“I said I hoped Chinese tourists can increase to 40 percent of the total,” Liu told Reuters.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office head Zhang Zhijun agreed to expand trade and travel specifically between China’s Fujian province and Matsu and Kinmen. Both Taiwan-controlled islands lie closer to China than Taiwan.
Group tourists from mainland China, which Beijing can effectively control via state-run Chinese travel agencies, fell 71 percent year-on-year from October 1-18, Taiwan data showed, coinciding with China’s National Day holiday, a Golden Week for travel for Chinese.
The sector was also hit by a bus fire in Taiwan in July that killed 24 mainland tourists. The driver, among the victims, had poured petrol inside the bus and locked its emergency exits before setting it alight, prosecutors said.
The severity of the decline in tourism led to a major protest in September and prompted the government to pledge T$30 billion ($960 million) in loans to the industry and work on attracting tourists from other Asian countries.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Ryan Woo and Nick Macfie)
Source: Reuters “China tries to ‘divide and rule’ Taiwan by befriending pro-Beijing towns”
Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
By Manuel Mogato | MANILA Sun Oct 30, 2016 | 1:16pm EDT
China has scaled down its presence at a disputed South China Sea shoal but has not interfered with Filipino fishermen, the Philippine president’s security adviser said on Sunday, after the administration had said China had withdrawn completely.
Hermogenes Esperon said Chinese ships were still present but had not blocked Filipino boats at the Scarborough shoal, a rocky outcrop central to an international arbitration case, since President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing two weeks ago.
The situation at sea remains unclear, however, as do the circumstances behind an apparent softening of China’s position regarding an area significant not only for fishing, but for the broader balance of power in the South China Sea.
China had repelled fishermen since seizing the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, but Filipino boats returned from the area at the weekend with tonnes of fish, broadcaster GMA reported, showing images of smiling crew and a large catch.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had on Friday declared Chinese vessels were no longer there and fishing could resume. Duterte’s spokesman also made similar comments.
However, Esperon said military monitoring of the situation showed a reduced Chinese presence, but not a total withdrawal.
“From Oct. 17 to 27, there had been only two Chinese ships,” Esperon said in a text message. “There are no written agreements or rules but Filipino fishermen who went there lately attest that they were not driven away.”
He said in the past, on an average day, there had been about five Chinese navy and four coastguard ships.
China’s blockade of what is a prime fishing spot prompted the previous Philippine government to take on China by filing a case in 2013 at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, infuriating Beijing.
The tribunal’s July ruling, which China refuses to acknowledge, declared the shoal a traditional fishing ground that Chinese, Philippine and Vietnamese could all exploit. It also invalidated China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.
A frosty Philippine-China relationship changed dramatically after Duterte took office four months ago and started praising China while denouncing the United States in a sudden reversal of his predecessor’s foreign policy.
China’s Foreign Ministry was asked by media on Friday about the situation at the shoal but gave a non-committal answer.
Returning fishermen said two or three Chinese coastguard ships circled the shoal but had not harassed them.
Esperon said a Chinese survey ship was seen near Scarborough on Oct. 19 and a navy frigate the following day, but when Duterte returned home from Beijing, they left the area.
He said there had been no update on the situation since Friday, but a defense source told Reuters a surveillance plane had on Saturday seen four Chinese ships at the shoal.
A senior coastguard official, who declined to be named because he was unauthorized to speak to the media, said a Chinese withdrawal appeared unlikely.
“China will not abandon this area but if it will no longer harass local fishermen, that’s a positive development,” the official said.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Martin Petty and Alison Williams)
Source: Reuters “Philippines says China ships still at shoal, but fishermen unhindered”
Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
SCMP carried its senior editor and China affairs columnist Cary Huang’s article titled “Four reasons Duterte will have to change tune on China and U.S.” specifying the following reasons:
1. The US-Philippines relationship has been strong for the nearly 70 years.
Sorry! Cary Huang forgets that the Philippines drove US troops away by taking back US military bases in the Philippines during the 70 years. I said in my post “South China Sea Disputes: Lucky China; Unlucky Philippines” on June 21, 2013:
Luckily, the Philippines drove away the US and took back the bases to deprive the US of the obligations to spend lots of money for the defense of the Philippines. At that time, we were really very happy about that as we were worried that US presence would make it very difficult for China to maintain its sovereignty to the islands, reefs and sea areas given that it took time for China to develop its navy.
Luckily for China, Filipino navy tried to drive away Chinese fishermen and provided China with the excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen. China is thus very lucky to gain complete control of Scarborough Shoal peacefully.
Why peacefully? The US did not send its navy to interfere as the 70-year relationship was not so strong!
2. The US ranks the third in Philippines’ foreign trade and Filipinos make lots of money in the US and sent back US$17.6 billion last year.
Duterte does not want to cut Philippines’ economic relations with the US; therefore, the trade relations and remittance will not change Duterte’s pro-China stance.
Moreover, the trade benefits not only the Philippines but also the US. The US is no longer a mentor in its foreign trade given the huge foreign exchange deficit in US foreign trade.
As for the US$17.6 billion that Filipinos working in the US sent back last year. Cary Huang perhaps mistakes the money as US donations. No, it had been earned by Filipinos through working hard for and making contributions to US economy and welfare. Do not forget that the US benefits from the Filipinos’ work.
3. Filipinos are overwhelmingly pro-American.
However, they have elected a pro-China and anti-American president and the president has been working to benefit the Philippines through improvement of relations with China.
4. Filipinos are also known for their patriotic passion and will not give up its territorial claims in its dispute with China.
While Duterte does not give up the claims, China does not force Duterte to accept its claims. China has set no preconditions in providing loans and investment to the Philippines. What China wants is to put aside the disputes over sovereignty as it is very difficult to resolve the disputes in a short time but the two sides may conduct cooperation in exploiting the resources in the disputed waters.
Cary Huang concludes, “The effect of the July 12 ruling by the international tribunal in The Hague will be felt in years to come. And that ruling – which the court stated as final and binding – will stand in the way of the Philippines-China relationship, regardless of the rhetoric.”
Sorry, no one is able to enforce the ruling that China has rejected.
Cary Huang is perhaps ignorant that diplomacy is driven by interests; therefore, there are the following two compelling reasons that Duterte will not change his pro-China stance:
1. The US will not fight to protect the Philippines’ interests in the South China Sea. It will not use its force to enforce the ruling in favor of the Philippines. If the Philippines does not cooperate with China in exploiting the resources in the disputed waters, the resources will entirely be exploited by China.
Shall the Philippines wait till the US has grown strong enough militarily and willing enough to help it enforce the ruling when the natural resources have entirely been taken away by China?
What is the use in enforcing the ruling when the resources have dried up?
Duterte is wise in improving ties with China to get a share of the resources.
2. The Philippines urgently needs Chinese loans and investment for construction of its infrastructures and developing its economy while the US is hard up and unable to give the Philippines any significant help.
As for Duterte’s angry words against the US, it is due to US opposition to his anti-drug campaign instead of his pro-China stance though the stance upsets the US.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2041077/four-reasons-duterte-will-have-change-tune-china-and-us
Satellites are vital in modern war. Without them there will be no navigation, positioning, communications, reconnaissance and missile guidance capabilities in modern warfare. We can foresee that in a modern large-scale war, satellites will first be destroyed. As a result, the capability to quickly make up for the destroyed satellites will be the key in winning the war.
Every military power in the world is developing its anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities. China is no exception. However, when a satellite has been destroyed by enemy ASAT rocket, it take a few days to install a replacement satellite on a rocket, erect the rocket and launch the replacement. The military will suffer greatly if it installs its destroyed satellites later than its enemy.
According to sources, China has developed its unique anti-ASAT capabilities in having developed and deployed its Kuaizhou anti-ASAT system.
In that system, there are lots of ready-made Kuaizhou satellites with integrated rockets installed on mobile vehicles. Soon after a satellite has been destroyed, a Kuaizhou rocket will be loaded with liquid fuel and go out of the tunnel it has been hiding to quickly launch a replacement satellite. As China is able to replace the destroyed satellite much quicker than its enemy, it will be able to quickly recover its satellite navigation, positioning, communications, reconnaissance and missile guidance capabilities to win the war.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.huanqiu.com’s report in Chinese “China’s Kuaizhou rocket looks exactly like a ballistic missile when it is launched”