Category Archives: Unmanned Systems

Maritime Radar onto MQ-9

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has integrated the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E V2 multi-mode radar onto an MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and performed its first test flight on April 14, 2021. The maritime-focused radar is also being fitted for the MQ-9B SeaGuardian RPA.

MQ-9B SeaGuardian RPA
GA-ASI Integrates Leonardo Seaspray V2 Maritime Radar onto MQ-9

«The benefits of this Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) in the complex littoral and maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) environment will add world-class situational awareness for our RPA», said GA-ASI Vice President of International Strategic Development Robert Schoeffling.

Designed and manufactured in Edinburgh, UK, the Leonardo 7500E V2 radar is the latest variant of the highly successful Seaspray Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar family, featuring updated processor and receiver technology to meet the evolving demands of the ISR mission set. The 7500E V2 is the largest and most capable Seaspray AESA radar and enhances the operationally proven 7500E.

The Seaspray greatly enhances the capabilities of GA-ASI RPA and builds on the already close working partnership between GA-ASI and Leonardo.

Tony Innes, VP Sales, Radar and Advanced Targeting at Leonardo said, «GA-ASI are an important partner and I’m delighted to see our joint projects generating interest in the market. Seaspray’s long-range, wide-area maritime and ground surveillance capability makes it an ideal fit for the MQ-9A and MQ-9B. The V2 offers significant range increases for certain critical modes, improved maritime detection and the ability to handle a high number of targets, while improving on its already-capable over-land mode suite».

NATO AGS Force

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s, NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk has reached a major milestone with the NATO AGS Management Agency (NAGSMA)’s Full System Handover to the NATO AGS Force (NAGSF) at the Main Operating Base, Sigonella, Sicily. The specially-designed AGS system is uniquely suited to NATO requirements and is providing critical Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) situational awareness to the 30 NATO member countries.

RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk
NATO AGS RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk

The NATO AGS Full System Handover is comprised of five aircraft, ground and support segments, along with advanced sensor technologies. Since the first of five aircraft arrived at the main operating base in Sigonella, Italy in 2019, operational flight hours have steadily increased, including the recent first 24-hour mission.

«This Full System Handover is an important milestone for the NATO AGS community, government and industry», said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. «The NATO AGS system is a force multiplier supporting the Alliance mission of deterring threats and protecting security across NATO member countries».

The RQ-4D Phoenix High-Altitude, Long-Endurance (HALE) system provides ubiquitous and unparalleled Joint ISR data to NATO. The wide area surveillance provided by Global Hawk and the fixed, mobile and transportable ground stations in the system support a range of missions, including: protection of ground troops and civilian populations; border control; crisis management; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, every day of the year.

Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems, including Global Hawk, is a critical component of networked, global ISR collection for allied nations. Global Hawk collects vital information to enable allied commanders to make informed and rapid decisions to preserve global security.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Record 39-Hour Flight

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works demonstrated the expanded endurance capabilities of a specially configured Lockheed Martin Stalker VXE Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) through a world record endurance flight on February 18, 2022, at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California.

Stalker VXE
Lockheed Martin’s Stalker VXE recently completed a world record 39-hour flight

The flight establishes a new record in the Group 2 (5 to <25-kilogram) category with a flight time of 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds. The flight has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world sanctioning body for aviation records, through its U.S. affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association, for certification.

A production Stalker VXE was modified for this record-setting flight with an external, wing-mounted fuel tank. The flight provided valuable insight for improvements to Stalker VXE aimed at scaling its mission capabilities for the future.

Stalker VXE’s class-leading endurance, broad operating envelope, modular payload compliance, vertical take-off and landing capability, and open system architecture allow it to execute diverse and demanding missions while maintaining a small operational footprint and crew.

To achieve this world record flight time, Lockheed Martin partnered with:

  • Edge Autonomy as a developer and original equipment manufacturer of high-performance unmanned systems, including the Stalker VXE aircraft.
  • Adaptive Energy to develop cutting-edge fuel cell technology, investing in advanced power sources and testing innovative implementation techniques for field operations.
  • Composite Technology Development Inc. to build a light-weight external wing tank.
  • Precision Integrated Programs to provide flight operations support.
  • Clovis Area Modelers to provide FAI official contest directors to continuously monitor and adjudicate the world record flight for ratification.

Japan RPAS Project

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), is pleased to be selected to support the Japan Coast Guard’s (JCG) RPAS Project. Operations will feature GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian and begin in October 2022.

MQ-9B SeaGuardian
GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project

SeaGuardian will be used to conduct wide-area maritime surveillance to support JCG’s missions, which include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. This project follows a series of successful JCG flight trials in 2020 that used SeaGuardian to validate the same JCG missions in accordance with Japan’s «Policy on Strengthening the Maritime Security Systems», using unmanned aerial vehicles to perform maritime wide-area surveillance.

«We’re proud to support the JCG’s maritime surveillance mission with our SeaGuardian UAS», said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. «The system’s ability to provide affordable, extremely long-endurance airborne surveillance with long-range sensors in the maritime domain is unprecedented».

SeaGuardian features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles and provides automatic tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks.

SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian are revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and full compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO UAS airworthiness standard). This feature, along with our operationally proven, collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

Ghost Bat

Boeing Australia congratulates the Australian Government and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on their selection of ‘MQ-28A Ghost Bat’ as the military designator and name for the first Australian-produced military combat aircraft in over 50 years.

MQ-28A Ghost Bat
The newly-named MQ-28A Ghost Bat during the second test flight series at Woomera Range Complex in South Australia

Australia’s Defence Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced the designator and name at a dedicated ceremony held at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.

«The introduction of the new popular name is a rare and special moment in aviation history for our RAAF partners and industry team of over 35 Australian suppliers», said Glen Ferguson, director Airpower Teaming System Australia and International.

«Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability», said Ferguson.

With a rapid development timetable of just three years from ideation to first flight, the development program leverages advancements in digital engineering, advanced manufacturing and unique Australian supply chain technologies.

While the RAAF Loyal Wingman development program name will phase out, Boeing’s product name for global customers will remain the Airpower Teaming System.

«Our enduring partnership with Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Defence Force (ADF) is fundamental to the successful development of MQ-28A’s complex technologies and capabilities, and has global export potential for Australia», said Dr Brendan Nelson AO, president Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.

During 2022, the program will continue to accelerate the development and testing of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat, with a focus on sensor and missionisation capabilities to deliver on RAAF commitments. These requirements will continue to expand as Boeing moves towards the aim of delivering an operational capability for the ADF.

Boeing unveils Ghost Bat, the new name for Loyal Wingman

Japan’s Global Hawks

Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully ferried the first of Japan’s three RQ-4B Global Hawks via a non-stop transpacific flight. The aircraft departed on Thursday, March 10, from Palmdale, California landing 18.7 hours later on March 12 at Misawa Air Base, Misawa, Japan.

RQ-4B Global Hawk
Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4B Global Hawk aircraft will provide the Japan Air Self-Defense Force with persistent, high-altitude surveillance of the Indo-Pacific

«The arrival of the first Japan Global Hawk is an important milestone in the development of this critical security asset», said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. «The autonomous Global Hawk will provide the Japan Air Self-Defense Force with persistent, high-altitude surveillance of the Indo-Pacific. Global Hawk’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities will provide invaluable support to Japanese national security and to the security of allies across the region».

RQ-4B Global Hawk, a large High-Altitude, Long-Endurance (HALE) Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is equipped with mission-specific sensors to meet critical ISR needs. This capability will change the way allies monitor threats and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response day or night. Combined with other Japanese intelligence assets, the advanced UAV will provide solutions to monitor and deter regional threats, contributing to Japan’s national security well into the future.

Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems, including Global Hawk, are critical components of networked, global ISR collection for allied nations around the world. The ISR data enables decision makers to act in a timely manner, deterring aggression and responding to emerging threats. Japan, with its Global Hawk fleet, will be part of a growing list of allied nations operating HALE UAVs. The United States, Australia, NATO and Korea will all be operating versions of this vital national security asset.

Adversary Air

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract to Blue Force Technologies to develop an unmanned air vehicle that supports adversary air (ADAIR) training missions. The Bandit program contract was awarded as the result of a Strategic Financing (STRATFI) proposal selected by AFWERX with a $9 million initial value and options to complete the design and build of up to four air vehicles.

ADAIR
A newly awarded Air Force Research Laboratory Small Business Innovation Research contract will develop an unmanned air vehicle design that supports adversary air (ADAIR) training missions for pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft (Courtesy illustration/Blue Force Technologies)

Under the Bandit program, Blue Force Technologies, a small aerospace and defense company based in North Carolina, will mature a high-performance unmanned air vehicle design that pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft can use to train against. The air vehicle is a part of a proposed autonomy-based system providing adversary air training for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter crews at greatly reduced costs compared to current manned capabilities.

The 12-month effort will mature the vehicle design to critical design level, perform engine ground testing and validate the design of the engine installation under the technical guidance of AFRL subject matter experts. Options under this contract, if exercised, will complete the design and engineering tasks, produce up to four air vehicles and complete initial flight testing.

Alyson Turri, the AFRL Bandit program manager, said «these small unmanned ADAIR systems can be flown in training scenarios so that fighter pilots can train against tactically relevant adversaries in threat representative numbers. The goal is to develop an unmanned platform that looks like a fifth-generation adversary with similar vehicle capabilities».

The Bandit program aims to provide an air vehicle solution for the unmanned ADAIR capability which, when integrated with autonomy, mission payloads and sensors, will revolutionize the adversary air training mission and provide key opportunities for pilots to interact with the unmanned systems in a training environment.

SBIR work with Blue Force Technologies began in 2019 and covered the initial requirements development, vehicle design, analysis and build of a structural test article supporting unmanned ADAIR.

AFRL is coordinating the Bandit program with Air Combat Command and has aligned the vehicle development effort in support of the unmanned ADAIR capability. ACC Commander Gen. Mark Kelly addressed the need for alternate approaches to costly adversary air sorties at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Life Cycle Industry Days in August 2021.

Future Fights

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is pleased to announce its new category of future-forward Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), focused on information dominance and airspace supremacy. Leveraging three decades of experience across millions of successful combat flight hours, the new Evolution line of advanced UAS joins GA-ASI’s existing Predator-class and Mojave-class aircraft in delivering next-generation UAS that lead the pack in advanced, affordable, attritable and autonomous combat power.

Evolution
GA-ASI Announces Evolution Class of UAS for the Future Fights of Tomorrow

The name Evolution refers to the evolutionary path GA-ASI has followed as it chartered the realm of unmanned aircraft through its rich, 30-year history of UAS innovation, designing for the future, and the force-multiplying power UAS provide modern warfighters. In the past three decades, GA-ASI has launched more than 25 UAS variants, beginning with the Gnat in 1992.

Evolution establishes a third aircraft class within GA-ASI, joining the well-known Predator line and recently announced Mojave line of expeditionary UAS featuring Short-TakeOff and Landing (STOL) capability. Evolution includes the development of GA-ASI’s next-generation UAS solutions designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its future force, as well as new UAS concepts such as Defender, Sparrowhawk and the recently announced Gambit.

«We’re continuing to grow and respond to the rapidly changing world», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary as a company, our new Evolution-series aircraft will merge our unique heritage of advanced and affordable UAS technologies with innovative technologies for the future. We’re looking ahead to new concepts and never-before-seen aircraft that meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow».

Manned Unmanned Teaming

The capstone flight test used real mission sensors on multiple unmanned military platforms and a manned military fighter aircraft, to execute a combat mission.

MUM-T
BAE Systems demonstrates manned-unmanned teaming capabilities in flight test

BAE Systems and the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) have completed a successful flight test of advanced Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) technology at a Department of Defense flight test range. The technology enables the rapid infusion of new payloads and platforms into the fleet to quickly enhance mission effectiveness and counter adversary technology.

The capstone flight test used real mission sensors on multiple unmanned military platforms and a manned military fighter aircraft, to execute a combat mission. The team of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) worked together to develop and execute autonomously the necessary tactics to complete the mission. The aviator used the Human Machine Interface (HMI) to monitor the mission’s progress and interact with the UAVs as desired.

«The development of autonomous technology is crucial to protect our warfighters against emerging threats», said Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. «This flight test demonstrates our team’s commitment to accelerate the deployment of reliable and innovative manned-unmanned teaming solutions for mission success».

During this most recent flight test, the team achieved its primary goal of demonstrating collaborative mission execution in an operationally representative environment. BAE Systems’ HMI was developed through extensive virtual and constructive simulation testing with assistance from pilots and electronic warfare officers. Test feedback from the manned aircraft operator also underscored the maturity of the MUM-T technology offering, highlighting its user-friendly interface, which increases mission safety and lethality.

«Our deep expertise in developing and fielding safety-critical flight control systems means that safety and assurance are integrated into our MUM-T architecture and software from the ground up», said Matthew Trouve, director of Development Programs for Military Aircraft Systems at BAE Systems. «This provides the warfighter with the necessary trust and confidence in our solution to operate in the same environment as autonomous unmanned teammates».

BAE Systems has developed its purpose-built architecture to be open, flexible, and assured. The company’s underlying MUM-T algorithms enable decentralized autonomous decision-making at the tactical edge, allowing the architecture to be easily adapted for new missions and incorporate future technology. A software development kit also allows third parties to introduce new algorithms and technologies to support future missions.

Over the next year, BAE Systems will continue development efforts with the DOD and invest in additional capabilities to further mature its MUM-T suite for operational readiness. The next phase of flight tests will enhance the mission suite’s capabilities and technology, showcasing flexibility and openness for integration on an additional manned aircraft type and another unmanned platform to execute a different mission.

BAE Systems’ MUM-T program leverages its more than 40 years of experience in flight control systems and 20 years of autonomous systems development expertise. Work for the MUM-T program is based at the company’s state-of-the-art facility in Endicott, N.Y.

MALE RPAS Stage 2

On 24/02/2022, OCCAR-EA Director, Matteo Bisceglia, on behalf of the German, French, Italian and Spanish Participating States, was delighted to sign the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE RPAS) Stage 2 Contract with Airbus Defence & Space GmbH represented by the CEO, Michael Schoellhorn.

MALE RPAS
European MALE RPAS Stage 2 Contract with Airbus Defence & Space GmbH

This important contract for Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement (OCCAR) and European defence encompasses the development and manufacture of 20 Medium Altitude Long Endurance air systems and more than 5 years of initial in-service support. The European MALE RPAS will offer capabilities that are beyond state of the art, especially in safety, information security and in the field of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR). The manufacture of the first Prototype is expected to commence in 2024.

This critical cooperative programme draws on the expertise of three major sub-contractors (Dassault Aviation S.A., Leonardo S.p.A and Airbus Defence & Space SAU) and, through an open tendering process, mid-cap European system suppliers in the value chain and across the entire supply base. The early phase of the programme is co-funded by the European Union through the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) with the aim to strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty.

The European MALE RPAS Stage 1 Contract, a Definition Study, was launched in 2016 to define common requirements between Germany, France, Italy and Spain and was successfully concluded in 2018 with the System Preliminary Design Review. The subsequent years have been spent ensuring that the follow-on Stage 2 contract would meet Programme Participating States’ expectations in terms of performance, affordability and value for money. In that respect, the successful completion of this negotiation phase was only made possible thanks to the unwavering drive of OCCAR-EA, nations and industry teams to adhere to established cooperation procurement best practices. Demonstrating that the only way for nations to be able to acquire complex capabilities such as MALE RPAS is through cooperation. As such, the MALE RPAS programme includes but is not limited to a common configuration, a single final assembly line, a common training and support solution and the firm determination to maintain a common organisation to manage all certification, qualification and accreditation activities.