Tag Archives: Dynetics

First Flight

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Gremlins program has completed the first flight test of its X-61A vehicle. The test in late November at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah included one captive-carry mission aboard a C-130A Hercules and an airborne launch and free flight lasting just over an hour-and-a-half.

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019

The goal for this third phase of the Gremlins program is completion of a full-scale technology demonstration series featuring the air recovery of multiple, low-cost, reusable Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), or «Gremlins». Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once Gremlins complete their mission, the transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The team met all objectives of the test in November, including gathering data on operation and performance, air and ground-based command and control systems, and flight termination. A parachute anomaly occurred in a recovery sequence that is specific to the test series and not part of the operational plan. The incident resulted in the loss of the test vehicle, one of five in the program. Four vehicles remain operational and available for the test series, which will continue in 2020.

«The vehicle performed well, giving us confidence we are on the right path and can expect success in our follow-on efforts», said Scott Wierzbanowski, the program manager for Gremlins in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «We got a closer look at vehicle performance for launch, rate capture, engine start, and transition to free flight. We had simulated the performance on the ground, and have now fully tested them in the air. We also demonstrated a variety of vehicle maneuvers that helped validate our aerodynamic data».

The next step for the program is a full evaluation of the test data, as well as to understand any issues related to the failure for the main parachute to deploy. The team anticipates the second flight test at Dugway in the spring 2020 timeframe to remain on track.

The C-130 Hercules is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds/68 kg, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.

The U.S. Air Force designated the Gremlins air vehicle as X-61A in August in recognition of the technical challenges associated with the program.

A Dynetics-led team is the performer for the Phase 3 demonstration series.

Gremlins X-61A Maiden Test Flight

SGM with Datalink

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) have successfully conducted initial testing of the Block I variant of the Dynetics GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition (SGM) incorporating a two-way datalink.

Dynetics Successfully Tests GBU-69 Small Glide Munition with Datalink
Dynetics Successfully Tests GBU-69 Small Glide Munition with Datalink

Flight tests, conducted in February achieved all test objectives including sending via the datalink updated target coordinates from the launch platform to the SGM, redirecting the munition to a secondary target located more than a mile from the initial target location and transmitting an in-flight command to inhibit munition arming. The munition also transmitted critical data such as its position, velocity, flight mode, and arming status back to the launch platform. Acknowledgement and verification of commands sent to and from the munition were verified via the Battle Management System on board the launch platform as well as a ground control station. Additionally, the SGM laser seeker was used for terminal guidance yielding a CE90 strike on the updated target coordinate.

 

Expanded System Capability

Dynetics initiated work with Raytheon Integrated Communications Systems to integrate the X-Net radio in 2017. Due to the highly collaborative design effort between the two companies, the SGM was able to accommodate the new hardware component within existing size, weight and power (SWaP) allocations for the munition electronics. A Dynetics-designed deployable mono-pole antenna, stowed under the wing prior to launch, is the only external modification made to the Block I datalink variant.

The RaytheonX-Net networked radio was designed to provide In-Flight Target Updates (IFTUs) in order to improve weapon performance in dynamic targeting environments and to receive telemetry data for both weapon performance and post-mission analysis. The X-Net is a new small form factor, software-defined, radio that meets the challenging SwaP requirements of small munitions. It is MIL-STD-6016 compatible and supports the SGM’s flyout range of over 20 nm.

The incorporation of a two-way datalink will greatly enhance the capabilities of the SGM allowing the weapon to be part of a network consisting of other airborne platforms and tactical air controllers. In the future, networked communications will facilitate collaborative strikes and lead to new tactics expanding SGM capabilities and effectiveness.

 

SGM’s History

The SGM, which became operational in 2017, was developed by Dynetics working in close collaboration with USSOCOM PEO-Fixed Wing under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Dynetics invested corporate resources to develop the munition which was first demonstrated under the CRADA. The munition was tested, qualified and fielded in less than two years. The success of the SGM program was noted as one of the key accomplishments of the PEO-Fixed Wing Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGM) Team which was recently recognized with the 2018 David Packard Acquisition Excellence Award – the DOD’s highest acquisition team award recognizing exemplary performance and innovation acquiring and delivering products and capabilities for the Warfighter.

Dynetics has increased SGM production capacity in response to a 1000-unit order from USSOCOM in 2018. Other near term planned activities include integration of SGM on Special Operation Forces (SOF) unmanned aircraft and demonstration of a new composite low-collateral damage warhead. Both are scheduled to occur in 2019.

 

Small Glide Munition Additional Details

The SGM is managed out of the Dynetics Missile and Aviation Systems Division which specializes in the rapid and affordable development of products to meet specific and sometimes urgent customer needs. The division is the Corporation’s lead for research, development, prototyping, testing and production of advanced munitions and unmanned systems.

High Energy Laser

The U.S. Army awarded Dynetics, Lockheed Martin and its partners a $10 million contract to continue development for the next phase of the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) program, a 100-kilowatt class laser weapon system.

Team Dynetics Receives Contract for Next Phase of 100 kW-Class Laser Weapon System for U.S. Army
Team Dynetics Receives Contract for Next Phase of 100 kW-Class Laser Weapon System for U.S. Army

Laser weapons are ideally suited to address high volume, low cost threats because of their inexpensive cost per shot and deep magazine. Team Dynetics HEL TVD system incorporates highly reliable subsystems to withstand the expected rugged operation conditions.

The team recently completed a System Requirements Review and technical baseline update. The next step in the program will be the preliminary design review in January 2019.

«The HEL TVD program will be pivotal for the warfighters while they are protecting our country. Dynetics, Lockheed Martin and our partners are providing a safe and simple high energy laser weapon system that crews can operate for years to come and across various terrains», said Ronnie Chronister, Dynetics vice president of contracts. «We pulled together a cross-industry leading team, which has the expertise and knowledge to understand exactly what is needed. We believe that our solution will be straightforward and will be the type of system that will preferred by the Army».

Dynetics is drawing on the experience of systems engineering, manufacturing, test and vehicle modifications for integration on the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV).

Lockheed Martin provides the laser subsystem, as well as other key subsystems. The spectral beam-combined fiber laser subsystem strongly leverages Lockheed Martin’s experience from ground vehicle integration gained as part of the Army’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI) program.

«The proliferation of hostile unmanned aerial systems and rockets, artillery and mortars present an increasing threat to deployed U.S. troops. Laser weapons offer a deep magazine and very low cost per shot making them ideally suited to complement existing kinetic energy weapons to address intense UAS swarms and RAM raids», said Iain McKinnie, Lockheed Martin business development lead for Advanced Laser Solutions and Strategy. «The Army’s HEL TVD program is a critical step toward realizing this potential, culminating in 2022 testing of a mobile 100 kW-class laser weapon system fully integrated with an Army FMTV truck».

Lockheed Martin has more than 40 years of experience developing laser weapon systems. The HEL TVD award leverages technology building blocks from internal research and development projects, including the ATHENA system and ALADIN laser, as well as contract experience gained from programs such as the U.S. Army’s RELI program, the U.S. Air Force LANCE program and the U.S. Navy HELIOS and HEFL programs.

Team Dynetics is one of two remaining contractors competing to build the demonstrator that will be tested in 2022. The winning contractor will be awarded a contract option to finish the design, build and integrate the laser weapon system onto an Army FMTV platform and conduct field testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.