All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Electronic attack

Raytheon Company delivered the first Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) pod to the U.S. Navy to begin ground and aircraft integration testing. Raytheon will deliver 15 EMD pods for mission systems testing and qualification as well as 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.

Raytheon delivers first Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band pod for Navy testing

NGJ-MB is a high-capacity and power airborne electronic attack weapon system for the EA-18G Growler. It will protect air forces by denying, degrading and disrupting threat radars and communication devices.

«The first NGJ-MB pod is out the door», said Stefan Baur, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. «We are one step closer to extending the Navy’s jamming range and capability. Delivery of this pod will allow for the initial verification of ground procedures, mass properties, aircraft installation, and Built In Test checks in preparation for future chamber and flight test».

Additionally, in the third quarter of 2019, Raytheon will utilize a Prime Power Generation Capability pod installed on a commercial Gulfstream aircraft in order to conduct power generation flight testing and risk reduction efforts in support of the initial flight clearance process.

Raytheon’s NGJ-MB architecture and design include the ability to operate at a significantly enhanced range, attack multiple targets simultaneously and advanced jamming techniques. The technology can also be scaled to other missions and platforms.

High-Energy Laser

Raytheon Company will deploy two prototype high energy laser weapon systems to troops overseas under a U.S. Air Force contract. The Air Force experimentation includes 12 months of in-field operation against unmanned aerial systems and operator training.

Raytheon developing advanced laser systems for US Air Force deployment

Raytheon’s High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) uses pure energy to detect, identify and instantly take down drones. It can target a single drone with precision. The HELWS is paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System. It uses invisible beams of light to defeat hostile Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs). Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, the system detects, identifies, tracks and engages drones.

«Every day, there’s another story about a rogue drone incident», said Stefan Baur, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. «These threats aren’t going away, and in many instances, shooting them with a high energy laser weapon system is the most effective and safest way to bring them down».

The contract follows successful demonstrations of Raytheon’s directed energy systems for the Air Force and the U.S. Army.

Sea Lion

The NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter will be the successor of the Sea Lynx Mk 88A as the helicopter of the German Navy. This ensures a smooth transition and synergies in later operations.

After a long evaluation, the German Navy has finally confirmed that the NH90 Sea Lion will replace the Westland Lynx as its standard shipboard helicopter. Designated Multi-Role Frigate Helicopter, it will enter Navy service in 2025 (Airbus photo)

The Federal Ministry of Defense has prepared this decision since the end of 2018 with the support of the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and the Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw). The representative of the Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle, approved this proposal on 29 July.

The Navy is expected to receive from 2025 their new on-board helicopter. Its special designation is «Multi-Role Frigate Helicopter» (MRFH). It will be the German version of the NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NH90 NFH), and closest to the French variant NFH (NFRS) Caiman.

The NFH already flies for the Italian, Norwegian, Belgian and Dutch naval forces.

As the next important milestone in the MRFH procurement process, the Bundestag will deal with a corresponding bill in 2020.

On-board helicopters are an integral part of the «frigate system». Equipped with sonar, radar and torpedoes, they are the essential sensor and weapons carriers in naval warfare, below as well as above water. They can also flexibly support maritime operations through transport and rescue missions.

 

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

Overall dimensions (rotors turning)
Length 64.18 feet/19.56 m
Width 53.48 feet/16.30 m
Height 17.42 feet/5.31 m
Weights
Maximum Gross Weight 23,369 lbs/10,600 kg
Alternate Gross Weight 24,250 lbs/11,000 kg
Empty Weight 14,109 lbs/6,400 kg
Useful Load 9,260 lbs/4,200 kg
Cargo Capacity
Cargo Hook 8,818 lbs/4,000 kg
Single or dual Rescue Hoist 595 lbs/270 kg
Rescue Hoist on ground 880 lbs/400 kg
Fuel Capacity
7-Cell Internal System 4,486 lbs/2,035 kg
Internal Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each) 882 lbs/400 kg
External Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each) 644 lbs/292 kg or 1,102 lbs/500 kg
Internal Dimensions
Width 6.56 feet/2.00 m
Length 15.75 feet/4.80 m
Height 5.18 feet/1.58 m
Volume 536.78 feet³/15.20 m³
Sliding doors opening 5.25 × 4.92 feet/1.60 × 1.50 m
Rear ramp opening 5.84 × 5.18 feet/1.78 × 1.58 m
NH90 General Performance (Basic Aircraft)
Maximum Cruise Speed* 162 knots/186 mph/300 km/h
Economical Cruise Speed* 140 knots/161 mph/260 km/h
Maximum Rate Of Climb* 2,200 feet/min/11.2 m/sec
One Engine Inoperative (OEI) Rate Of Climb 2 min Rating* 850 feet/min/4.3 m/sec
OEI Rate Of Climb Continuous Rating at 6,560 feet/2,000 m* 300 feet/min/1.5 m/sec
Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect (IGE)* 10,500 feet/3,200 m
Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect (OGE)* 8,530 feet/2,600 m
Maximum Range 530 NM/610 miles/982 km
Maximum Range with 5,511.5 lbs/2,500 kg payload 486 NM/559 miles/900 km
Maximum Endurance 5 h
Ferry Range (with Internal Aux Fuel Tanks) 864 NM/994 miles/1,600 km

* At 22,046 lbs/10,000 kg

Billings

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Billings (LCS-15), during a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday, August 3, in Key West, Florida.

Navy commissioned Littoral Combat Ship USS Billings (LCS-15)

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Tester’s wife, Sharla, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony was highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Mrs. Tester gave the first order to «man our ship and bring her to life»»!

«The future USS Billings and her crew will play an important role in the defense of our nation and maritime freedom», said Secretary of the U.S. Navy Richard V. Spencer. «She stands as proof of what teamwork – from civilian to contractor to military – can accomplish. This fast, agile platform will deliver her motto, ‘Big Sky Over Troubled Waters,’ worldwide thanks to their efforts».

The ship is named in honor of Billings, the largest city in Montana, as well as the people and military veterans of the state. The USS Billings (LCS-15) is the first ship of its name in naval service.

Montana has a rich history and proud heritage of naval service, with thirty ships named over the years in honor of places and people, including the currently serving Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Helena (SSN-725) and the under-construction Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Montana (SSN-794). Montana also has one of the highest per capita veteran populations, according to the Veterans Administration.

The USS Billings (LCS-15) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric «anti-access» threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom-variant team is led by Lockheed Martin, Marinette, Wisconsin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA, Mobile, Alabama, (for LCS-6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).

 

Ship Design Specifications

Hull Advanced semiplaning steel monohull
Length Overall 389 feet/118.6 m
Beam Overall 57 feet/17.5 m
Draft 13.5 feet/4.1 m
Full Load Displacement Approximately 3,200 metric tons
Top Speed Greater than 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range at top speed 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km
Range at cruise speed 4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km
Watercraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 4
Aircraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 5
Propulsion Combined diesel and gas turbine with steerable water jet propulsion
Power 85 MW/113,600 horsepower
Hangar Space Two MH-60 Romeo Helicopters
One MH-60 Romeo Helicopter and three Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (VTUAVs)
Core Crew Less than 50
Accommodations for 75 sailors provide higher sailor quality of life than current fleet
Integrated Bridge System Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation
Core Self-Defense Suite Includes 3D air search radar
Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) gunfire control system
Rolling-Airframe Missile Launching System
57-mm Main Gun
Mine, Torpedo Detection
Decoy Launching System

 

Freedom-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Freedom (LCS-1) 06-02-2005 09-23-2006 11-08-2008 San Diego, California
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) 07-11-2009 12-07-2010 09-22-2012 San Diego, California
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) 10-27-2011 12-18-2013 11-21-2015 San Diego, California
USS Detroit (LCS-7) 08-11-2012 10-18-2014 10-22-2016 San Diego, California
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) 06-27-2013 07-18-2015 12-16-2017 San Diego, California
USS Sioux City (LCS-11) 02-19-2014 01-30-2016 11-17-2018 Mayport, Florida
USS Wichita (LCS-13) 02-09-2015 09-17-2016 01-12-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS Billings (LCS-15) 11-02-2015 07-01-2017 08-03-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) 07-18-2016 04-18-2018 Mayport, Florida
USS St. Louis (LCS-19) 05-17-2017 12-15-2018
USS Minneapolis/St. Paul (LCS-21) 02-22-2018
USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) 08-14-2018
USS Marinette (LCS-25) 03-27-2019
USS Nantucket (LCS-27)
USS Beloit (LCS-29)
USS Cleveland (LCS-31)

 

Electronic warfare pod

Northrop Grumman Corporation has received a $44 million contract award for the Electronic Attack Pod Upgrade Program (EAPUP) from the U.S. Air Force. Placed under an existing contract, this third production order will significantly increase the number of EAPUP systems for the Air Force.

Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Attack Pod Upgrade Program brings fifth-generation electronic countermeasures to the fourth-generation fleet

Operating in the modern air warfare environment with advanced, rapidly proliferating electronic warfare systems and radar-guided weapons requires an equally sophisticated level of protection and proven technology. The EAPUP – an upgraded, digital AN/ALQ-131 pod – will replace the Air Force’s current electronic attack pods. The AN/ALQ-131A is currently available to international partners.

«The new technology in EAPUP will protect U.S. Air Force pilots and coalition partner aircraft from modern and future threats», said Michelle Scarpella, vice president and general manager, global logistics and modernization, Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman received the order following a series of rigorous tests designed to verify the system’s capabilities and readiness for operations. The tests were representative of modern combat scenarios and involved multiple, simultaneous threats. The pod demonstrated the ability to identify, locate and counter sophisticated threats and keep aircrews safe during missions in contested airspace.

«The advanced electronic warfare capability integrated in EAPUP is mature, scalable and in production today. Available globally, it is ready to give aircrews the protection they need in dense electromagnetic spectrum environments», said Brent Toland, vice president, land and avionics C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), Northrop Grumman.

EAPUP will bring the Air Force’s electronic attack pod inventory into the digital age, delivering fifth-generation capability to fourth-generation aircraft and making it among the most capable electronic warfare pod in the Department of Defense inventory. At the core of EAPUP is Northrop Grumman’s advanced electronic warfare technology, built upon the expertise gained from the company’s broad portfolio of programs for multiple services.

Northrop Grumman has more than 60 years of experience delivering electronic warfare systems for a wide variety of fighter, bomber and transport aircraft.

Tactical Boost Glide

Raytheon Company and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) completed a successful baseline design review for the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic weapons program, establishing the company’s technical approach for a critical design review and moving the system a step closer to development and use.

Raytheon, DARPA complete key design review for new hypersonic weapon

A boost glide weapon uses a rocket to accelerate its payload and achieve hypersonic speeds – velocities greater than Mach 5. During flight, the payload separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.

«We understand the urgency of the need and are working fast to deliver this advanced technology to our nation’s military», said Doctor Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. «The goal is to keep America ahead of emerging threats, and we are well on our way».

The U.S. military will use hypersonic weapons to engage from longer ranges with shorter response times and with greater effectiveness than current weapon systems.

Earlier this year, Raytheon received a $63 million DARPA contract to further develop the Tactical Boost Glide program, a joint effort between the agency and the U.S. Air Force.

Delivery of Indianapolis

The Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) during a ceremony at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, on July 26.

Navy accepts delivery of future USS Indianapolis (LCS-17)

The future USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) is the 9th Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) designed and built by the Lockheed Martin-led industry team at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette. Delivery marks the official transfer of the ship from the shipbuilder to the Navy. It is the final milestone prior to commissioning, which is planned for October 26 in Burns Harbor, Indiana. Indianapolis’s homeport will be Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

«This is a tremendous day for the Navy and our nation with the delivery of the future USS Indianapolis, which will carry into her future an important naval legacy», said LCS Program Manager Captain Mike Taylor. «I look forward to celebrating the commissioning of this great ship alongside the crew later this year. This ship will play an essential role in in carrying out our nation’s maritime strategy».

Honoring the capital and largest city in Indiana, LCS-17 it will be the fourth ship named Indianapolis in naval service. The first was a cargo ship (ID-3865) commissioned in 1918. The second was a Portland-class heavy cruiser (CA-35) that earned 10 battle stars for distinguished World War II service operating from Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific escorting convoys and attacking enemy submarines. Its service ended when the ship was sunk by a Japanese torpedo minutes after midnight July 30, 1945. Only 317 of the 1,196 sailors serving aboard the ship survived after five days afloat in the Pacific. The third USS Indianapolis was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-697), decommissioned in 1998.

The future USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) was christened on April 18, 2018. Sister ships the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) was christened on June 15 and the future USS Billings (LCS-15) is being commissioned on August 3. The future USS St. Louis (LCS-19), USS Cooperstown (LCS-23), USS Marinette (LCS-25), USS Nantucket (LCS-27), USS Beloit (LCS-29) and USS Cleveland (LCS-31) are all in varying stages of construction at FMM.

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, while capable of open-ocean tasking and winning against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft. They are capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence.

 

Ship Design Specifications

Hull Advanced semiplaning steel monohull
Length Overall 389 feet/118.6 m
Beam Overall 57 feet/17.5 m
Draft 13.5 feet/4.1 m
Full Load Displacement Approximately 3,200 metric tons
Top Speed Greater than 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range at top speed 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km
Range at cruise speed 4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km
Watercraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 4
Aircraft Launch and Recovery Up to Sea State 5
Propulsion Combined diesel and gas turbine with steerable water jet propulsion
Power 85 MW/113,600 horsepower
Hangar Space Two MH-60 Romeo Helicopters
One MH-60 Romeo Helicopter and three Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (VTUAVs)
Core Crew Less than 50
Accommodations for 75 sailors provide higher sailor quality of life than current fleet
Integrated Bridge System Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation
Core Self-Defense Suite Includes 3D air search radar
Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) gunfire control system
Rolling-Airframe Missile Launching System
57-mm Main Gun
Mine, Torpedo Detection
Decoy Launching System

 

Freedom-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Freedom (LCS-1) 06-02-2005 09-23-2006 11-08-2008 San Diego, California
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) 07-11-2009 12-07-2010 09-22-2012 San Diego, California
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) 10-27-2011 12-18-2013 11-21-2015 San Diego, California
USS Detroit (LCS-7) 08-11-2012 10-18-2014 10-22-2016 San Diego, California
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) 06-27-2013 07-18-2015 12-16-2017 San Diego, California
USS Sioux City (LCS-11) 02-19-2014 01-30-2016 11-17-2018 Mayport, Florida
USS Wichita (LCS-13) 02-09-2015 09-17-2016 01-12-2019 Mayport, Florida
USS Billings (LCS-15) 11-02-2015 07-01-2017 Mayport, Florida
USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) 07-18-2016 04-18-2018 Mayport, Florida
USS St. Louis (LCS-19) 05-17-2017 12-15-2018
USS Minneapolis/St. Paul (LCS-21) 02-22-2018
USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) 08-14-2018
USS Marinette (LCS-25) 03-27-2019
USS Nantucket (LCS-27)
USS Beloit (LCS-29)
USS Cleveland (LCS-31)

 

E-2D Program

Lockheed Martin’s Radar Sensor Systems market segment has been awarded a contract from Northrop Grumman worth over $600 million for Multi-Year Production (MYP) of 24 additional APY-9 radars for the U.S. Navy’s E-2D aircraft program. It’s also known as the Advanced Hawkeye program.

The E2-D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft (Photo courtesy – Navy Visual News Service)

The APY-9 radar program is nearing completion of a current five-year production contract in 2020, and this new award calls for another five years of production – with deliveries spanning from 2021 to 2025. The latest radar order will include Lockheed Martin’s new Advanced Radar Processor.

«We’re excited to have the opportunity to continue producing APY-9 radars for the Navy’s use on its Advanced Hawkeye aircraft and to continue supporting our customers with performance upgrades on a regular basis», Ken Kaminski, Airborne & National Surveillance Radar program director, said.

The APY-9 radar is an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) surveillance system that provides both mechanical and electronic scanning capabilities designed to «see» smaller targets – and more of them – at a greater range, particularly in coastal regions and over land.

«The team has performed extremely well to date in terms of delivering all of our APY-9 systems on or ahead of schedule», Kaminski said.

Production work is performed at Lockheed Martin sites in Syracuse and Owego, New York, and Clearwater, Florida.

 

General Characteristics

Wingspan 24.56 m/80 feet 7 in
Width, wings folded 8.94 m/29 feet 4 in
Length overall 17.60 m/57 feet 8.75 in
Height overall 5.58 m/18 feet 3.75 in
Diameter of rotodome 7.32 m/24 feet
Weight empty 19,536 kg/43,068 lbs
Internal fuel 5,624 kg/12,400 lbs
Takeoff gross weight 26,083 kg/57,500 lbs
Maximum level speed 648 km/h/350 knots/403 mph
Maximum cruise speed 602 km/h/325 knots/374 mph
Cruise speed 474 km/h/256 knots/295 mph
Approach speed 200 km/h/108 knots/124 mph
Service ceiling 10,576 m/34,700 feet
Minimum takeoff distance 410 m/1,346 feet ground roll
Minimum landing distance 537 m/1,764 feet ground roll
Ferry range 2,708 km/1,462 NM/1,683 miles
Crew Members 5
Power Plant 2 × Rolls-Royce T56-A-427A, rated at 5,100 eshp each
Unrefueled >6 hours
In-flight refueling 12 hours

 

High-Speed Interceptor

CMN’s shipyard in Cherbourg on July 24, 2019 launched the first two of a series of 38 High-Speed Interceptor (HIS) boats ordered by Saudi Arabia. The event was attended by Saudi officials and the Kingdom’s media, but not by the French press or government officials. It must be said that the subject remains controversial in France, against a backdrop of controversy over arms sales to Ryad and their potential use in the conflict in Yemen.

The first of 38 High-Speed Interceptor (HIS) boats that France’s CMN shipyards are building for Saudi Arabia was launched on July 24 in Cherbourg. These boats are 32 meters/105 feet long and can reach speeds in excess of 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h (KSA MoD photo)

In the pipeline for a good five years, these interceptors were finally ordered in 2018. They are aluminum boats 32 meters/105 feet long and 6 meters/19.7 feet wide, designated HSI 32; CMN has already produced six for Mozambique. Their propulsion allows them to exceed the speed of 43 knots/50 mph/80 km/h, 47 knots/54 mph/87 km/h having been largely attained during trials, albeit by a boat that was not fully loaded and equipped.

The exact characteristics and performance of the Saudi HSI 32 are not known, but the launching of the first od class shows that their main armament is apparently a Narwhal, 20-mm tele-operated cannon produced by the French company Nexter. They also embark a Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat about 5 meters/16.4 feet long on a rear ramp.

Of the 39 interceptors ordered by Saudi Arabia, about half will be manufactured in Cherbourg, the others being made in Dammam in technology transfer. An agreement with the Saudi group Zamil Offshore Services has been signed to this effect.

Apart from these interceptors, which represent three years of work for CMN, Cherbourg is also building three La Combattante FS 56 large missile boats for the Saudi navy. Construction began in 2017 with a view to delivery starting in 2020. These are the 56-meter/184-foot boats initially commissioned for Lebanon (in 2015) as part of the DONAS program, which was to be financed by the Saudis and was to provide a wide range of French military equipment (boats, helicopters, vehicles, missiles …) to Lebanon.

However, given the complex situation in the Levant and the growing influence of Hezbollah, hostile to Saudi Arabia, Ryad decided in 2016 to suspend the contract as planned, while taking over for itself the orders that had already been signed, with certain evolutions. DONAS then became the SFMC program (Saoudi French Military Contract).

These 42 units produced under the aegis of CMN will bring to 121 the number of military boats sold since 2015 by French shipyards to Saudi Arabia. This includes the 79 type 1650 FIC interceptors made by the manufacturer Girondin Couach for the Saudi coastguards. Delivered between 2016 and 2018, these 16.5-meter/54-foot composite boats, armed with light cannon, are capable of exceeding 60 knots/69 mph/111 km/h.

One can also add Naval Group’s refit of the main frigates of the Saudi navy, which were also produced in France, namely the three F3000s which entered into service between 2002 and 2004, as well as two of the four F2000s, and the Boraida and Yunbou tankers commissioned between 1984 and 1986. This modernization program is due to be completed in 2020.

These contracts obviously involve a number of French equipment manufacturers, starting with the electronics specialist Thales and missile manufacturer MBDA.

France, however, is not the only supplier of Saudi naval forces, far from it. The German shipyard Lürssen won in 2015 a giant contract with the Saudi Ministry of the Interior for up to 140 boats from 15 to 90 meters/49 to 295 feet (interceptors, patrol boats, patrol boats, support units …), including the 79 interceptors subcontracted to Couach.

But it was Spain’s Navantia who won the big prize last year, with the coming into force of a contract for five 100-meter/328-foot corvettes, heavily armed ships displacing 2,500 tonnes. Construction of the lead ship started in January in Cadiz, with a view to delivery in 2022.

Combat Aircraft

A new project to develop a novel unmanned combat aircraft has been announced by the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Dstl to develop conceptual unmanned aircraft for RAF

The Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept looks to offer additional capability, deployed alongside fighter jets like the F-35 and Typhoon – offering increased protection, survivability and information for the manned aircraft – and could even provide an unmanned combat air «fleet» in the future.

Specifically, in a break with traditional approaches for combat air systems in the UK, the innovative LANCA concept aims to deliver dramatic reductions in traditional cost and development timeline.

Under LANCA, a technology demonstrator project known as ‘Mosquito’ has awarded contracts for Phase 1 of the work, which will produce a preliminary system design for an unmanned air vehicle and assessment of the key risk areas and cost-capability trade-offs for an operational concept. Initial flight test of the demonstrator air vehicle could take place as early as 2022.

Phase 1 will include the exploration of novel design, development, prototyping, manufacture, and support, to enable low-cost rapid development and evolution of a potential future unmanned combat air system. Dstl, which provides science and technology for the defence and security of the UK, is delivering the technical oversight, project management, and partnering for Project Mosquito.

For Phase 1, contracts were awarded to three teams led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, Boeing Defence UK Ltd, and Callen-Lenz (Team BLACKDAWN partnered with Bombardier Belfast and Northrop Grumman UK Ltd).

LANCA originated in 2015 studies by Dstl to understand innovative Combat Air technologies and concepts that might offer radical reductions in cost and development time. Subsequently LANCA was brought into the RAF RCO as part of the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI). LANCA aims to explore the utility and feasibility of unmanned capability adjuncts to existing and future Fast Jet aircraft, specifically those that offer substantial reductions in traditional cost and development timelines.

Project Mosquito has two planned phases. After the 12-month Phase 1, Phase 2 will select up to two of the Phase 1 solutions to further mature the designs, complete manufacturing of the technology demonstrator and conclude with a limited flight-test programme.

The RAF RCO, in partnership with Dstl, is adopting creative approaches to deliver this challenging project. For example, by conducting a competition to access ‘best of breed’, it has enabled non-traditional suppliers to propose their approach to meet the MOD’s ambitious aims. Additionally, subject matter experts within the MOD are assigned as technical partners to each team, supporting industry with technical and operational advice and decisions. This will enhance the opportunity of this game-changing concept in a coherent approach for future combat air systems.