Tag Archives: DARPA

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.

Gremlins Program

After meeting several primary objectives during risk reduction flights at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in late July, DARPA’s Gremlins program now is targeting additional tests of its X-61A vehicle later this year. The program seeks to develop and demonstrate air launch and air recovery of up to four Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), known as Gremlins Air Vehicles (or just Gremlins), within 30 minutes.

Gremlins X-61-A vehicle flies below an Air Force C-130 aircraft

Over several days in July, the technology development team completed multiple flight tests of the Gremlins air-vehicle ground and recovery systems, including demonstration of a recovery system safely retrieving and stowing the air vehicles. The team also conducted a controlled launch of a Gremlin flying for more than two hours and performed rendezvous and autonomous formation station-keeping between the air vehicle and a C-130 at a separation of 125 feet/38.1 m.

The July flights follow the program’s first flight test in November 2019, during which the program completed one captive-carry mission, and an airborne launch and free flight lasting more than 90 minutes.

«The air vehicle performed beautifully from launch through mission modes, and the consistency between the flight tests in November and July increases confidence in the X-61A», said Scott Wierzbanowski, the Gremlins program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «However, we made a decision to delay the first air recovery attempt and instead focus on key risk reduction activities to better ensure a smooth air recovery test later this year».

The program now calls for flight tests to resume in October with the key objective to recover first one, and then two, air vehicles in the same flight. By the end of the year, the program aims to complete the test series, culminating with airborne recovery of four Gremlins within 30 minutes. This final demonstration will showcase the capability of safe, effective, and efficient air recoveries, opening the way to dramatically expand the application and utility of attritable UASs.

Mission flexibility and affordability are the key attributes of the Gremlins system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while the latter remain beyond the range of adversary defenses. The Gremlins program is using a C-130 as the demonstration platform, but the recovery system is designed to be easily modified and compatible with a wide array of transport aircraft and weapons systems. Once Gremlins complete their missions, the transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews could prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

Gremlins can incorporate several types of sensors weighing up to 150 pounds/68 kg, and integrate technologies to accommodate different stakeholders and missions.

X-Plane Program

DARPA has selected three performers to work on the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program, which aims to demonstrate an aircraft design based on Active Flow Control (AFC), an area not fully explored compared to traditional flight controls. The goal is to demonstrate significant efficiency benefits of AFC, as well as improvements in aircraft cost, weight, performance, and reliability.

Three performers on the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors program will seek to demonstrate active flow control for aircraft stability and in-flight control

«The performers are looking at using active flow control very early in the design scope. That’s the differentiating piece that hasn’t been done before», said Alexander Walan, the program manager for CRANE in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «AFC has been explored at a component level, but not as an integral piece of aircraft design. By altering the design approach, CRANE seeks to maximize the chance of a successful X-plane development while also integrating AFC into the aircraft’s stability and control».

The program is kicking off Phase 0, a long conceptual design phase to give performers time to evaluate flow control options before solidifying their demonstration approaches. The performers selected for Phase 0 are:

  • Aurora Flight Sciences;
  • Lockheed Martin; and
  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation.

Phase 0 awards will comprise multiple conceptual design trades, active flow control component testing, multi-domain analysis and optimization, concept down selection, and a conceptual design review.

Over the past two decades, the term AFC has described a wide range of fluid dynamic control approaches. For the CRANE program, active flow control is defined as the on-demand addition of energy into a boundary layer for maintaining, recovering, or improving vehicle aerodynamic performance. CRANE is excluding already proven techniques that use large external moving surfaces, mechanical vectoring of engine jet exhaust, or other traditional moving aerodynamic control devices.

CRANE performers are expected to maximize use of commercial off-the-shelf-parts and components for non-flight control subsystems to reduce program risk outside of unique configurations and AFC technologies.

«Active flow control technology has matured at the component level to the point where a potential leap forward in aircraft technology is possible», said Walan. «We see an opportunity with CRANE to open up the future design space for both defense and civilian applications».

One step closer

Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S), a Raytheon Technologies business, will build two prototype sensor payloads for DARPA’s Blackjack program, under a $37M contract. Blackjack is a low Earth orbit satellite constellation program that aims to develop and demonstrate the critical elements for persistent global coverage against a range of advanced threats. It seeks to track multiple threats simultaneously for faster and earlier warning for national security.

Constellation of low earth orbit sensors to be delivered to DARPA

«Constellations offer built-in resiliency – strength in numbers», said Wallis Laughrey, Space & Command and Control communication (C2) Systems lead for Raytheon Intelligence & Space. «The entire network of satellites can continue to operate uninterrupted, even if one drops off».

RI&S is reducing integration timelines for rapid deployment, having completed Blackjack’s preliminary design review in October 2019. During preliminary design review, RI&S engaged with major subcontractors to confirm costs and ensure the team would be ready to go to production. The company is leveraging its advanced manufacturing capabilities, fast-production and commercial space programs to deliver the two sensors.

«Blackjack is innovative in its simplicity», said Laughrey. «We’ve incorporated mature tech like advanced algorithms and optics that allow us to go fast, but from day one, our primary design driver was manufacturing for cost».

RI&S’ Blackjack production will support the team for the constellation’s autonomous mission management system, Pit Boss. Pit Boss interconnects all of the data from the Blackjack satellite constellation, acting as the collection and processing hub to deliver data to the right person at the right time.

The RI&S contract goes through critical design review and support to the systems integrator for integration with Pit Boss and the space vehicle. It also includes launch campaign support and the on-orbit demonstration. Following Critical Design Review (CDR) in November 2020, DARPA has the option to order an additional eight or 18 sensor payloads.