Friday, October 21, 2011

Tennessee Becomes First State with TSA Agent Checkpoints on Highways and at Bus Stations

When the TSA hits the airports, I distinctly remember Alex Jones saying that we would soon see the TSA at or around the sporting events, ports and highways. That was around 2008 or 2009. Well, it is now 2011 and yes, the TSA is setting up agents at checkpoints on Tennessee highways. And while my home State of Tennessee is the first State with TSA agents on its highway, it won't be the last.

Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

Checkpoints seem to attract violence. They cause traffic and bottlenecks. They also restrict and impede the flow of traffic. These checkpoints will be no different. I fully expect we will be reading about some violent act occurring at one of these checkpoints in the near future.

The reporter says it is a "army of agents on wheels." At 1:40, the reporter presents the story as if this operation finds some dangerous threat to national security. At a minimum to justify this type of operation, perhaps the guy is carrying illegal fuel. Nope, he just carrying some chemicals that "seem suspicious." And in the end, there is nothing wrong with this guy's cargo. Yet, I wonder how long he was detained while the TSA agents illegally searched his cargo without probable cause.

Airports are mainly federal jurisdiction, so I understand the TSA operating within those confines. I may not agree, but I understand. And under a similar rationale, the TSA will now be operating on the interstate highways with the consent of the State and local jurisdictions. No word on whether these agents will be permanent. However, I say that unless the TSA loses its operating budget, then these agents will not be leaving anytime soon.

As for what the Visible Intermodal Protection and Response team does, here is the information directly from the TSA.

Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) teams consist of a combination of STSIs, Federal Air Marshals, explosive-detection canine teams, Aviation Security Inspectors, and Transportation Security Officers. The teams provide a random, announced, high-visibility surge into a transit agency, in addition to enhancing agency resources during special events. More than 50 mass transit deployments have occurred since the program was initiated in December 2005. Regional planning and execution is increasing the frequency of deployments and enhancing local expertise, thereby increasing the terrorism deterrent effect. Recent examples include VIPR deployments at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system in Boston, at Amtrak facilities in Boston, upstate New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, and at the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Amtrak facilities in Buffalo, New York.

Source: (Nashville)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

U.S. Army Awards $4.9M Contract to AeroVironment to Create "Kamikaze" Drones (a/k/a Switchblade Agile Munition Systems)

It seems like there are more unmanned drones being developed than manned aircraft these days. However, I should not be surprised, because one of this blog's most popular articles of all-time was United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047 (May 18, 2009) (Unclassified). That article defined the Air Force's plan for an unmanned aircraft fleet over the next forty (40) or so years. I would not be surprised if the other military branches did not have similar types of plans.

These drones produced by AeroVironment for the U.S. Army will have "kamikaze" capabilities - meaning that the unmanned drone itself will be the bomb. This reminds of me an episode of the Transformers cartoon from 1986 with the Lipoles. The Lipoles were basically bat-like drone Transformers that could transform into kamikaze bombs (click the picture to watch the episode where the Lipoles appear).

The tube-launched Switchblade drone, made by Monrovia, California-based Aerovironment Inc., was secretly sent to Afghanistan for the first time last year. “Under a dozen” were fired, said Army Deputy Product Director William Nichols.

Source: Bloomberg


U.S. Army Awards AeroVironment $4.9 Million Contract for Switchblade Agile Munition Systems and Services

September 01 2011

MONROVIA, Calif., Sept. 1, 2011 -- AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV) announced that it received a contract on June 29 from the U.S. Army Close Combat Weapons Systems (CCWS), Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO MS). The $4,907,840 contract for the Switchblade agile munition includes engineering services and operational systems for deployment with the U.S. Army.

This award represents the culmination of years of development, testing, demonstrations and customer evaluations. The prototype Switchblade system previously received Safety Confirmation and underwent Military Utility Assessment with the U.S. Army in the fall of 2010. The award is for rapid fielding of this capability to deployed combat forces.

The Switchblade air vehicle launches from a small tube that can be carried in a backpack and transmits live color video wirelessly for display on AeroVironment’s standard small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) ground control unit. Upon confirming the target using the live video feed, the operator then sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it and lock its trajectory onto the target. Flying quietly at high speed the Switchblade delivers its onboard explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral damage. With the ability to call off a strike even after the air vehicle is armed, Switchblade provides a level of control not available in other weapon systems.

“The unique capabilities provided by the Switchblade agile munition for standoff engagement, accuracy and controlled effects make it an ideal weapon for today’s fight and for U.S. military forces of the future,” said Bill Nichols, deputy product director at the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems project office.

Instead of requiring support from weapon systems controlled by other operating units, operators will be able to use the ground launched Switchblade variant to respond to enemy combatants with precision fire from a significant standoff distance, when and where required.

"Our dedicated team developed this breakthrough solution with a focus on satisfying important customer needs,” said Tom Herring, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “Just as our small unmanned aircraft systems provide game-changing reconnaissance capabilities to ground forces, Switchblade provides a revolutionary rapid strike capability to protect our troops and give them a valuable new advantage on the battlefield.”

About AeroVironment’s Small UAS

Raven®, Wasp and Puma comprise AeroVironment’s Family of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Operating with a common ground control system (GCS), this Family of Systems provides increased capability to the warfighter that can give ground commanders the option of selecting the appropriate aircraft based on the type of mission to be performed. This increased capability has the potential to provide significant force protection and force multiplication benefits to small tactical units. AeroVironment’s UAS logistics operation supports systems deployed worldwide to ensure a consistently high level of operational readiness. AeroVironment has delivered thousands of new and replacement small unmanned air vehicles. International purchasers of AeroVironment’s small UAS include the armed forces of Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Norway, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia.