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10 June 21. Thailand takes delivery of Camcopter S-100 VTOL UAVs. The S-100 Camcopter needs no prepared area or supporting launch or recovery equipment, and is designed to operate in day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a beyond line-of-sight capability. (Schiebel)
The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has taken delivery of at least two Camcopter S-100 vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicles (VTOL UAVs) supplied by Austrian company Schiebel.
Images released by the RTN’s Air Division show two S-100 air vehicles in service livery – numbered 1425 and 1426 – operated by the division’s specialised UAV squadron in southern Thailand.
Air vehicle 1425 is seen with a ventral electro-optical/infrared (EO-IR) sensor payload – L3Harris Wescam’s MX-10 system – although air vehicle 1426 has yet to be furnished with one.
Schiebel announced in November 2019 that it had won a competitive tender to supply the RTN with an undisclosed number of its S-100 UAVs, noting in its statement that the air vehicles will be deployed by the RTN from the Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat province as well on the service’s frigates for land- and sea-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.
“With the Royal Thai Navy, we have another major maritime contract to add to our growing list of customers,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, asserting that the S-100 was selected over other competing platforms due to the type’s proven reliability at sea.
Schiebel has partnered with the Bangkok-based MoraThai Defence Company to deliver a full-training package for a smooth transition into service and provide commercial offset.
Other known S-100 UAV customers in the Asia Pacific region include Australia, Malaysia and South Korea. Australia acquired S-100s equipped with S2 heavy fuel engines for trials under the SEA 129 Phase 5 Tactical UAS programme.
The S-100 has a maximum take-off weight of 200 kg and a typical payload of 50 kg including fuel and sensors. It can operate for up to six hours out to a maximum range of around 200 km, although endurance can be extended with an external fuel tank. (Source: AMR)
07 June 21. Ghost Fleet Overlord Unmanned Surface Vessel Program Completes Second Autonomous Transit to the Pacific. The Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), in partnership with the U.S. Navy, recently conducted a second long-range autonomous transit with a Ghost Fleet Overlord Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) from the Gulf Coast, passing through the Panama Canal, to the West Coast.
The unmanned vessel, named NOMAD, traveled 4,421 nautical miles (nm), 98 percent of which was in autonomous mode. The first Ghost Fleet Overlord vessel, RANGER, completed a similar transit in October 2020. Both USVs passed through the Panama Canal while in manual mode.
The NOMAD transit provided an opportunity for extended testing of vessel endurance, autonomous operations, and interoperability of government command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems with vendor autonomy, hull mechanical and hull electrical systems. Remote mission command and control for the NOMAD transit was conducted from an ashore Unmanned Operations Center operated by U.S. Navy Sailors from Surface Development Squadron One.
“This is another significant milestone for SCO’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program and supports the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework by adding a second Overlord vessel to the West Coast. The SCO Ghost Fleet Overlord program serves to inform Navy prototype efforts by integrating mature technologies to accelerate Service priorities and is a key piece of the build a little, test a little, and learn a lot philosophy articulated in the Navy Unmanned Campaign Framework,” said SCO Director Jay Dryer.
The NOMAD USV is joining the RANGER USV to participate in fleet experimentation exercises to further mature the autonomy systems, demonstrate system reliability, and explore employment concepts for coordinated operations with manned combatants while stressing our command and control systems. Both vessels will continue to provide key system data, enable fleet operator feedback, and demonstrate capabilities essential to continued maturation and development of USV concepts of operation.
The Ghost Fleet Overlord program is currently in its second phase, which began in September 2019 and focuses on the integration of government-furnished command-and-control systems and payloads and more complex and challenging naval operations experimentation. Phase II is being conducted with the same vessels and industry teams that took part in Phase I and will conclude in early 2022, at which point both Ghost Fleet Overlord vessels will transition to the Navy for further experimentation.
The Ghost Fleet Overlord program, executed by SCO in partnership with Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants, is playing a central role in informing the Navy’s new classes of USVs and serving as part of extensive technical risk-reduction efforts.
“Our close partnership with SCO on the Overlord program is accelerating the technology demonstration, CONOPs [concept of operations] development, and operational command and control of unmanned surface vessels in direct alignment with the Navy’s plans,” said Captain Pete Small, Navy Program Manager for USVs.
Two additional Ghost Fleet Overlord prototype USVs are currently under construction and will be used to expand and accelerate the Navy’s experimentation and testing. (Source: US DoD)
07 June 21. US Navy, Boeing Make Aviation History with MQ-25 Becoming the First Unmanned Aircraft to Refuel Another Aircraft.
– MQ-25 T1 test asset refuels a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrating its aerial refueling mission for the first time.
For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have demonstrated air-to-air refueling using an unmanned aircraft – the Boeing-owned MQ-25™ T1 test asset – to refuel another aircraft.
During a test flight June 4, MQ-25 T1 successfully extended the hose and drogue from its U.S. Navy-issued aerial refueling store (ARS) and safely transferred jet fuel to a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrating the MQ-25 Stingray’s ability to carry out its primary aerial refueling mission.
“This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing.”
“This history-making event is a credit to our joint Boeing and Navy team that is all-in on delivering MQ-25’s critical aerial refueling capability to the fleet as soon as possible,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “Their work is the driving force behind the safe and secure integration of unmanned systems in the immediate future of defense operations.”
During the initial part of the flight, the F/A-18 test pilot flew in close formation behind MQ-25 to ensure performance and stability prior to refueling – a maneuver that required as little as 20 feet of separation between the MQ-25 T1 air vehicle and the F/A-18 refueling probe. Both aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes. With the evaluation safely completed, the MQ-25 drogue was extended, and the F/A-18 pilot moved in to “plug” with the unmanned aircraft and receive the scheduled fuel offload.
The milestone comes after 25 T1 flights, testing both aircraft and ARS aerodynamics across the flight envelope, as well as extensive simulations of aerial refueling using MQ-25 digital models. MQ-25 T1 will continue flight testing prior to being shipped to Norfolk, Virginia, for deck handling trials aboard a U.S. Navy carrier later this year.
The Boeing-owned T1 test asset is a predecessor to the seven test aircraft Boeing is manufacturing under a 2018 contract award. The MQ-25 will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters and helping extend the range of the carrier air wing.
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