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By Beth Bacheldor

Lockheed Martin Announces RuBee Weapons Tracker Was Successfully Tested

Lockheed Martin and Visible Assets Inc. (VAI) have announced the completion of a pilot leveraging a new, advanced weapons-maintenance system using RuBee tags and developed by the two companies. During the multi-phased pilot program, RuBee tags were embedded in select Naval assets to track weapon performance and diagnostic data. The system operated as designed for the duration of the pilot. RuBee successfully provided maintenance and diagnostic data, such as the number of rounds fired, the rate of fire and the calculated barrel temperature. The tags also detected performance anomalies, such as gas port erosion and cracked bolts, before they led to potential weapon failure.

The pilot launched in early 2014 (see Lockheed Martin Offers RuBee Solution for Monitoring Munitions).

The system, known as the RuBee Weapon Shot Counter, addresses the challenge of tracking sensitive munitions remotely via battery-powered tags compliant with the RuBee standard (IEEE 1902.1). Traditional RFID tags cannot always be read or accessed through metals, liquids and other materials; they're also subject to eavesdropping by those intent on gaining access to information about munitions supplies. In contrast, the companies note, RuBee uses magnetic coupling, rather than RF backscatter, and is not subject to these deficiencies.

Since RuBee technology employs magnetic coupling, it works on and in steel items, according to John Stevens, VAI's CEO and chairman. Based in Stratham, N.H., the privately held company designs, manufactures and sells RuBee wireless real-time asset security and visibility networks. "RuBee is explosive-safe, safe near fused ordinance, safe on nuclear weapons, and has no Tempest Target or eavesdropping security risks," he says. "It is ideally suited for many defense/military applications other than small firearms."

According to Lockheed Martin, the assets tested during the pilot were weapons. While the firm indicates that it could not cite specific numbers, the amount of weapons tested was large enough to illustrate the system's accuracy, as well as the potential benefits it could provide, to the Navy, by automating the time-consuming and manually intensive process of tracking ammunition and scheduling weapons maintenance. The tags were either incorporated into a standard grip or attached on a barrel, and the data was read by either a handheld or fixed reader.

Lockheed Martin is now working to expand this effort from a pilot to a full program that generates cost savings and increases confidence in weapon safety, and is currently in the process of evaluating the next iteration of the program. According to Lockheed Martin, that iteration could range from including just the Weapon Shot counter and associated software, to perhaps incorporating the ability to also track weapons as they enter or exit a defined perimeter or armory, thereby eliminating the need for hands-on inventory scans and allowing the armory to remotely audit weapons.

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