Tag Archives: DARPA

Integration and Validation

Northrop Grumman Corporation delivered the Arrays at Commercial Timescales Integration and Validation (ACT-IV) system to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The system is based on an advanced digital Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) that completed multiple successful demonstrations and acceptance testing at Northrop Grumman test facilities.

ACT-IV
Northrop Grumman tests its Arrays at Commercial Timescales Integration and Validation (ACT-IV) digital AESA system for the AFRL and DARPA at the company radar range in Linthicum, Maryland (Source: Northrop Grumman)

«The development of the ACT-IV system is a breakthrough in AESA performance and marks an important milestone in the nation’s transition to digitally reprogrammable multifunction Radio Frequency (RF) systems», said William Phillips, director, multifunction systems, Northrop Grumman. «The new ACT-IV capabilities have the agility to defeat complex emerging threats and will be used to enhance the next generation of integrated circuits and AESAs that are currently in our digital AESA product pipeline».

ACT-IV is one of the first multifunction systems based on a digital AESA using the semiconductor devices developed on the DARPA Arrays at Commercial Timescales (ACT) program. By applying the flexibility of the digital AESA, the ACT-IV system can perform radar, electronic warfare and communication functions simultaneously by controlling a large number of independent digital transmit/receive channels. The agility of the digital AESA was demonstrated during multiple demonstrations at the Northrop Grumman test range and will enable future warfighters to quickly adapt to new threats, control the electromagnetic spectrum, and connect to tactical networks in support of distributed operations.

The ACT-IV system will be a foundational research asset for the Department of Defense’s multi-service research initiative for digital radars and multifunction systems. This initiative will support a community of researchers that are developing new algorithms and software to explore the possibilities of next generation digital AESAs for national security missions.

The algorithms, software and capabilities developed on ACT-IV will transition into next generation multifunction RF systems to support advanced development programs throughout the Department of Defense.

«This delivery is the culmination of the close collaboration between the teams at AFRL, DARPA and Northrop Grumman», said Doctor Bae-Ian Wu, ACT-IV project lead, Sensors Directorate, AFRL. «The ACT-IV system is being prepared for initial testing by the AFRL Sensors Directorate as part of a strategic investment to develop and test the technologies for multifunction digital phased array systems in an open-architecture environment for the larger DoD community».

Northrop Grumman is the industry leader in developing mission-capable, cost-efficient, open-architecture and multi-function radar and sensor systems to observe, orient and act across all domains – land, sea, air and space. They provide the joint forces with the intelligence they need to operate safely in today’s multi-domain operational environment.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

X-Plane

DARPA has selected multiple performers to continue the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin Corporation are now entering Phase 1, which includes system requirements development, initial design work, software development, and initial airworthiness activities that culminate in a preliminary design review.

Aurora Flight Sciences
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, was selected to continue to Phase 1 of DARPA’s CRANE program

«The Phase 1 researchers have completed conceptual designs of novel flight demonstration configurations with quantifiable performance benefits enabled by Active Flow Control (AFC)», said Doctor Alexander Walan, program manager for CRANE in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «Multiple AFC technologies will continue to be matured through advanced analytical and testing activities for incorporation in relevant demonstrator designs».

One of the primary objectives of Phase 0 was the development and maturation of AFC design software and databases for inclusion in future aircraft development activities. Georgia Tech Research Corporation’s Phase 0 effort has been extended to allow further refinement of these tools for transition to relevant military and government partners.

«In addition to its role in upcoming flight test activities, AFC design software is a critical piece for the inclusion of AFC technologies in future defense and commercial aircraft designs», said Walan. «The CRANE program is in a unique position to provide a comprehensive AFC database and the associated tools to future aircraft designers. The continuation of Georgia Tech Research Corporation’s work in this area will ensure this valuable capability is successfully transitioned to the aircraft design community».

DARPA has also selected another performer, BAE Systems, to initiate a Phase 0 conceptual design activity. Phase 0 is focused on AFC trade space exploration and risk reduction activities to inform this work. Under the recent Phase 0 award, BAE Systems will evaluate the benefits of using AFC integrated into different air vehicle concepts leading to a conceptual design review.

«All of the CRANE performers are exploring unique configurations and performance objectives; this additional performer adds to the diverse concepts and technologies being matured by the CRANE program», said Walan.

Mobile Force Protection

In recent tests at Eglin Air Force Base, DARPA’s Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program demonstrated a Counter-Unmanned Air System (C-UAS) multilayer defense architecture to defeat unauthorized drone intrusions over military installations or operations. Development of this low-cost reusable drone interceptor system approach began four years ago with the aim of creating an integrated system for thwarting attacks from self-guided small unmanned aircraft. The goal is to protect high value convoys moving through potentially populated regions where there is a requirement to avoid using explosive defensive weapons and mitigate collateral damage.

Mobile Force Protection (MFP)
Mobile Force Protection project vehicle launches drone interceptor in test at Eglin Air Force Base

The technology demonstrator successfully neutralized tactically-relevant drones using a newly-developed X band radar that automatically senses and identifies unmanned aerial system threats. The radar then pairs targets to specific interceptors through an automated decision engine tied to a command and control system, launching and guiding rotary and fixed wing interceptors with two types of drone countermeasures while on the move and without operator intervention.

«Because we were focusing on protecting mobile assets, the program emphasized solutions with a small footprint in terms of size, weight, and power», said MFP program manager Gregory Avicola in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «This also allows for more affordable systems and less operators».

The requirement that the system field non-kinetic solutions pushed concepts that could be employed in and around civilian areas. The primary drone negation mechanism shoots strong, stringy streamers from reusable interceptors that foul propellers causing loss of propulsion. Additionally, other non-kinetic techniques were developed and demoed. The focus on defeating raids with multiple threats, rather than single unmanned aerial attackers, required the development of an integrated solution of sensors, autonomy, and mitigation solutions more robust than existing systems. Dynetics was the primary systems integrator.

DARPA is currently working with the military services to transition technology developed in the MFP project into various acquisition programs.

Autonomous ship

L3Harris Technologies has been selected to design an autonomous surface ship concept for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of an unmanned ship performing lengthy missions.

NOMARS
L3Harris Technologies will design long-endurance autonomous surface ship concept for DARPA

L3Harris was chosen for phase one of the two-phase No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program. The L3Harris design concept will streamline NOMARS’ construction, logistics, operations and maintenance life-cycle. The company teamed with VARD Marine to validate the concept and design of the architecture and hull, mechanical and electrical systems.

The L3Harris design features an advanced operating system that can make decisions and determine actions on its own – without direct human interaction. This concept optimizes autonomous surface ship operations to support the U.S. Navy’s future missions.

«L3Harris continues to pioneer innovative autonomous solutions that offer fully automated and integrated ship control and preventative maintenance systems to the U.S. Navy and its allies», said Sean Stackley, President, Integrated Mission Systems, L3Harris. «The NOMARS program selection reinforces our commitment to deliver highly reliable and affordable autonomous solutions that transform the way the U.S. Navy conducts its future missions».

L3Harris is a world leader in Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) systems, with over 125 USVs and optionally manned vehicles delivered. The company’s USVs are actively serving U.S and international navies, universities, research institutions and commercial businesses.

LongShot Concept

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) to develop an advanced technology weapon concept designed to significantly increase engagement range and weapon effectiveness of U.S. Forces against adversary air threats.

LongShot
Northrop Grumman to Develop Advanced Air-to-Air Missile Engagement Concept

«Our collaboration with DARPA is the critical first step in the development of innovative operational concepts and solutions that will enhance our warfighter’s combat capability against a rapidly growing threat», said Jaime Engdahl, program director, kinetic weapons and emerging capabilities, Northrop Grumman. «The LongShot program enables us to combine our digital engineering skillset with our extensive knowledge in advanced technology weapons, autonomous systems and strike platforms to increase weapon range and effectiveness».

Spurred by rapid technological advancements and an ever more dangerous and disruptive battlefield, DARPA’s LongShot program will explore new lethal engagement concepts by leveraging multi-modal propulsion, weapon systems that can be operationally deployed from existing fighters or bombers.

DARPA’s advanced aerospace systems activities are focused on utilizing high pay-off opportunities to provide revolutionary new system capabilities, as opposed to incremental or evolutionary advancements, in order to achieve undeterrable air presence at dramatically reduced costs.

The LongShot program enables Northrop Grumman to combine its expertise in weapon system design, survivability, autonomy, advanced mission systems and rapid prototyping to deliver advanced solutions that help to maintain a competitive military advantage in highly contested environments.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 97,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

LongShot program

DARPA’s LongShot program, which is developing an air-launched Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) with the ability to employ multiple air-to-air weapons, has awarded contracts to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman for preliminary Phase I design work. The objective is to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft.

LongShot UAV
Artist’s concept of LongShot UAV

Current air superiority concepts rely on advanced manned fighter aircraft to provide a penetrating counter air capability to effectively deliver weapons. It is envisioned that LongShot will increase the survivability of manned platforms by allowing them to be at standoff ranges far away from enemy threats, while an air-launched LongShot UAV efficiently closes the gap to take more effective missile shots.

«The LongShot program changes the paradigm of air combat operations by demonstrating an unmanned, air-launched vehicle capable of employing current and advanced air-to-air weapons», said DARPA program manager Lieutenant Colonel Paul Calhoun. «LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capability».

In later phases of the program, LongShot will construct and fly a full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled flight, before, during, and after weapon ejection under operational conditions.

OpFires Phase 3b

DARPA’s (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Operational Fires (OpFires) program, which is developing a ground-launched intermediate-range hypersonic weapons system, is advancing to a new phase. Phase 3b will involve full-scale missile fabrication, assembly, and flight testing from a launch vehicle. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control was awarded this new contract modification after leading a successful Phase 3a integrated system preliminary design review that resulted in a comprehensive design and test plan.

OpFires
Computer model of OpFires missile

«The objectives of DARPA’s OpFires program remain unchanged. The system design that Lockheed is developing continues to achieve the desired tactical mobility and system performance in line with the Department of Defense’s push to deliver an intermediate-range surface-to-surface missile», said Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Stults, the DARPA program manager for OpFires in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

OpFires aims to demonstrate a novel system enabling hypersonic boost glide weapons to rapidly and precisely engage critical, time-sensitive targets while penetrating modern enemy air defenses. The program is developing an advanced booster capable of delivering a variety of payloads at multiple ranges and compatible mobile ground launch platforms that can be rapidly deployed.

DARPA Gremlins

Attempts at airborne retrieval of three unmanned air vehicles, nicknamed Gremlins, were just inches from success in DARPA’s latest flight test series that started on October 28. Each X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) flew for more than two hours, successfully validating all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features. Nine attempts were made at mechanical engagement of the GAVs to the docking bullet extended from a C-130 aircraft, but relative movement was more dynamic than expected and each GAV ultimately, safely parachuted to the ground.

X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV)
Gremlins Air Vehicle and C-130 aircraft during a test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah

«All of our systems looked good during the ground tests, but the flight test is where you truly find how things work», said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager for Gremlins in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «We came within inches of connection on each attempt but, ultimately, it just wasn’t close enough to engage the recovery system».

Hours of data were collected over three flights, including aerodynamic interactions between the docking bullet and GAV. Efforts are already underway to analyze that data, update models and designs, and conduct additional flights and retrieval attempts in a fourth deployment this spring.

«We made great strides in learning and responding to technological challenges between each of the three test flight deployments to date», said Wierzbanowski. «We were so close this time that I am confident that multiple airborne recoveries will be made in the next deployment. However, as with all flight testing, there are always real world uncertainties and challenges that have to be overcome».

The goal of the Gremlins program is to demonstrate air launch and air recovery of four GAVs within 30 minutes. The capability of safe, effective, and efficient air recoveries will dramatically expand the potential uses of unmanned air vehicles in conflict situations. The GAVs can be equipped with a variety of sensors and other mission-specific technologies. They can also be launched from various types of military aircraft, keeping those less expendable assets beyond the range of adversary defenses. After air retrieval of GAVs, they would be transported back to the ground where crews could prepare them for another mission within 24 hours.

Dynetics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, is developing the Gremlin vehicles.

Operational Fires

As Lockheed Martin continues the work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance the unique hypersonic technologies of its Operational Fires (OpFires) program, the company today announced its initial round of key subcontractors on the program. OpFires seeks to develop and demonstrate an innovative ground-launched system to enable a hypersonic boost glide missile system to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly engage time-sensitive targets.

OpFires program
Lockheed Martin’s OpFires team is developing a missile with a unique throttleable booster that can defeat targets across the medium-range spectrum

Joining prime contractor Lockheed Martin on the OpFires Phase Three Weapon System Integration program are Northrop Grumman, Dynetics, and Electronic Concepts & Engineering, Inc (ECE).

«The engineering innovation required to deliver this maneuverable and rapid-response solution demands a best-of-industry team», said Steven Botwinik, director of Tactical and Strike Missiles Advanced Programs. «OpFires and its unique throttleable booster make it a versatile platform to launch a variety of payloads over varied ranges and for this reason, OpFires is well-suited to address the Army’s Medium Range Strategic Fires needs».

Specifically, the new subcontractors on the program will support the technology development in the following ways:

  • Northrop Grumman in Elkton, Md., will develop the stage one solid rocket motor;
  • Dynetics in Huntsville, Ala., will deliver the cannister, all up round and fins, and support integration and test; and
  • ECE, a small business based in Holland, Ohio, will provide the booster power pyro module.

Lockheed Martin has played a significant role in the research, development and demonstration of hypersonic technologies for more than 30 years. The corporation has made significant investments in key technology and capability development – including hypersonic strike capabilities and defense systems against emerging hypersonic threats and is supporting all branches of the U.S. military on these hypersonic programs.

The company expects to complete its first live fire in 2021.

Hypersonic Weapons

September 1, 2020, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced successful completion of captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year. The joint Agency and Service effort seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.

DARPA Completes Key Milestone on Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Program

HAWC performers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight. Their upcoming flight tests will focus on hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.

«Completing the captive carry series of tests demonstrates both HAWC designs are ready for free flight», said Andrew «Tippy» Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work – that gives us faith the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces».

The HAWC program, since inception, has been executed as a joint program between DARPA and the USAF. In addition, DARPA is working in cooperation with military services and agencies, including the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to validate, and eventually transition key technologies. The extensive flight data collected is intended to increase the confidence in air-breathing hypersonic systems and reduce the risks to potential future acquisition programs across the U.S. government.