Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
22 Jul 22. Chinese Drone Maker Lobbies to Defeat US National Security Ban. China’s blacklisted DJI is battling to take care of its dominance of the US drone market by lobbying Congress to dam a invoice barring the federal authorities from shopping for its unmanned plane.
The Shenzhen-based firm has employed two lobbying corporations — Squire Patton Boggs and the Vogel Group — to steer members of Congress to not again the American Security Drone Act, which forbids the federal government from shopping for drones from Chinese corporations or others considered as posing a threat to nationwide safety. DJI is only one of many Chinese expertise corporations which have fallen into Washington’s crosshairs over safety considerations. The Trump administration in 2018 positioned the group on the “entity list” — a blacklist that successfully prevents it from shopping for US expertise. President Joe Biden final 12 months added DJI to the “Chinese military-industrial complex companies” checklist, a gaggle of entities wherein Americans are prohibited from investing.
As DJI faces strain from the administration, it’s working to derail congressional efforts that may hit its enterprise in America. The ADSA would additionally prohibit US native legislation enforcement, for instance, from utilizing federal grants to purchase its drones. According to OpenSecrets, which tracks lobbying spending, DJI has spent virtually $4mn for the reason that begin of 2018.
Underscoring the strain on the group, David Benowitz, head of analysis at Drone Analyst, mentioned DJI’s share of the US industrial market had fallen from 62 per cent in 2020 to 50 per cent final 12 months. Over the identical interval, Autel, one other Chinese drone maker that has come below much less scrutiny, has seen its share of the US market share rise from 7 per cent to 9 per cent.
DJI employed Squire Patton Boggs, a lobbying powerhouse, in April after the House handed the just about 3,000-page America Competes Act, a invoice aimed toward boosting US competitiveness in opposition to China that included the ASDA.
But as lawmakers battle to reconcile House and Senate variations of the large China payments as a result of a separate political dispute, the DJI battle has shifted to the annual defence spending invoice working its method by Congress.
DJI appeared to win an early victory this week when the Democrat-controlled House guidelines committee opted to not embody the drone language within the House model of the defence invoice. That angered lawmakers comparable to Michael Gallagher, a Republican who sponsored the drone modification.
“The language in this amendment hasn’t changed since it passed the House in the Competes Act earlier this year and neither has the threat posed by DJI drones, but for some reason it seems Congress’s appetite to debate this issue has,” Gallagher advised the Financial Times. “The US government has clearly outlined the threats these devices pose to our national security, and we have to work together to ensure these drones are nowhere near the federal government,” he added.
The House guidelines committee didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Michael McCaul, the highest Republican on the House overseas affairs committee, criticised the transfer to exclude the ASDA from the National Defense Authorization invoice.
“If congressional Democrats can’t agree that ensuring a blacklisted Chinese drone company doesn’t receive American money is a valid amendment to NDAA, I’m concerned they don’t understand the basics of ‘national defence,’” McCaul advised the FT.
Adam Lisberg, North America head of communications for DJI, mentioned the corporate didn’t know if its lobbying had contributed to the end result. But he mentioned the outcome within the House mirrored
“the growing bipartisan consensus that broad restrictions on drone technology would hurt the American first responders and small businesses who want to make their own choices”.
According to emails obtained from a congressional workplace, DJI’s lobbyists argue that its drones are important for native legislation enforcement and first responders as they’re extra superior and less expensive than US rivals.
But Alexandra Seymour, a expertise professional at CNAS, a think-tank, mentioned the advantages of the expertise have been far outweighed by the nationwide safety dangers.
“We are trying to protect our technology and innovation. We don’t want to create an opportunity for the competition to come in and steal information or surveil our critical infrastructure,” Seymour added.
In a letter to lawmakers in June, Adam Welsh, DJI’s world coverage head, mentioned DJI couldn’t acquire entry to consumer information until clients opted to share it with the group and denied that there was a safety threat.
But critics counter that Chinese nationwide safety legal guidelines require corporations in China to share information with the central authorities when compelled by Beijing.
Eric Sayers, a safety professional on the American Enterprise Institute, mentioned he was shocked on the transfer within the House given the bipartisan consensus on DJI, which he attributed to lobbying. He mentioned it was now important that the Senate, which is drafting its model of the defence invoice that can later should be reconciled with the House model, take up the trigger in opposition to DJI.
“Congress has talked a good game about the People’s Republic of China in recent years but has repeatedly failed to take decisive steps against PRC drones for fear of the near-term but necessary costs it will create to rip them out of our government ecosystem,” mentioned Sayers. “This trend will only change if the Senate finds the courage to take bipartisan action to pass ASDA.” (Source: UAS VISION/NEWSNCR)
22 Jul 22. UK Protector Leads MQ-9B Development in Europe. The UK Royal Air Force is set to become the world’s first operational user of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, the world’s most advanced medium-altitude, long-endurance Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS).
The RAF’s version is called the Protector RG Mk1 and Her Majesty’s Government is on track to accept delivery of its first aircraft this autumn from designer and manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., based in San Diego. The Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Air Show provides an opportunity for the Royal Air Force to demonstrate their leading position on the cutting edge of aviation to a wide variety of UK stakeholders as well as International Partners and Allies.
Protector is the largest and most capable aircraft of its kind anywhere in the world, purpose built to lead a new generation of multi-mission aircraft for the most sophisticated users such as the Royal Air Force. Although it’s descended from the well-proven Predator family of RPAS, a fleet which has recorded more than 7 million flight hours, Protector is a whole new certified platform that stands alone and does things its predecessors never could.
The aircraft can operate in virtually all weather. It has de-icing and lightning protections. Its longer wingspan means it can operate longer, fly further, carry more, and operate from shorter airfields, increasing its versatility.
Protector has some of the world’s most versatile onboard equipment, including electro-optical infrared sensors that give it extraordinary vision over long ranges day or night; a synthetic aperture radar that lets it peer through dust, smoke, haze; and more.
It also has a proprietary Detect And Avoid System, invented and developed by manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., that lets the aircraft and its pilots see everything in the air around them as well, if not better, than an onboard pilot would.
This system and other novel features mean Protector can integrate into civil airspace just as another normal aircraft would, something no other RPAS can do. This gives the Royal Air Force the best of both worlds: a highly versatile multi-mission aircraft that can fly missions for up to 40 hours and one that requires no special arrangements by military or civil aviation authorities. Protector’s pilots and crew can be located remotely from the aircraft fleet, simplifying the footprint required to deploy Protector rapidly, anywhere in the world.
Protector is not only civil airspace compliant, but it is also able to withstand freezing temperatures and operate at high latitudes
When Protector’s crew needs to talk with air traffic controllers, they simply do, just as any other pilots might as they’re making their way around national and international airspace. Last summer an MQ-9B demonstrated safe and normal flights through UK and international airspace as handled by the UK’s National Air Traffic Service; take a look at how it described the success of those operations.
All this technology and innovation is the significant final step in closing the operational gap between manned and unmanned aircraft. There is no need to set aside a special corridor of airspace and keep other aircraft out in order for Protector to make a transit flight. With Protector, Royal Air Force crews can simply log their flight plan, “file and fly,” as pilots say.
Although the UK is leading the way with these capabilities as the first operational user of MQ-9B, other nations aren’t far behind. Belgium, Japan, and other governments are adding these aircraft as well to take advantage of their rich versatility.
Medium-altitude, long-endurance RPAS such as the Protector are ideal for maritime security, border enforcement, search and rescue, ecological support missions such as wildfire fighting or infrastructure security, and much more. With the many additional sensors the aircraft can carry, they are powerful tools for safety and security.
A 360-degree maritime search radar, for example – like Leonardo’s SeaSpray, manufactured in Edinburgh – means that MQ-9B can patrol broad sections of important waterways such as the North Sea or North Atlantic and keep detailed watch of all the shipping in the area. Other payloads in use for other missions help extend communications networks, support wildfire responders, and more.
Protector and other RPAS also play a significant military role. They can accommodate a full range of munitions and, if needed, British or allied crews can use them to apply precise, effects against hostile targets.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year provided a grim example of the continued importance of remotely piloted aircraft across the whole spectrum of security, intelligence, and military operations. And advanced users are responding. (Source: UAS VISION)
21 Jul 22. £60m development of uncrewed helicopter supports 100 UK jobs. A cutting-edge uncrewed aircraft demonstrator will be designed and developed in a £60m contract awarded to Leonardo.
- £60m over four years to design and develop an uncrewed helicopter demonstrator
- Supporting up to 100 highly skilled UK jobs at Leonardo’s Yeovil site
- Delivering innovative defence capability to support UK Armed Forces
Driving innovation in future naval capability, the project will support up to 100 highly skilled engineering jobs at Leonardo’s Yeovil site.
Testing the viability of larger uncrewed aircraft for the Royal Navy, the three-tonne demonstrator – less than a fifth of the weight of a Merlin helicopter – could provide an innovative alternative to existing aircraft for tracking adversary submarines.
Trials will test the capability of the aircraft to drop “sonobuoys” – small tube-shaped buoys that track and communicate submarine activity – enabling the aircraft to alert a crewed helicopter and call for support if a submarine is located. Designed to operate at lower cost than crewed aircraft, capabilities derived from the demonstrator could also reduce the exposure of Royal Navy personnel to hostile threats.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, said:
The global threat is changing, and it is crucial we remain at the forefront of defence innovation.
Exploring cutting-edge, new defence capabilities through programmes with key British manufacturers, will help to ensure our Armed Forces are equipped to deal with the latest threats.
If successful, the new aircraft would provide a platform capable of delivering improved surveillance and intelligence, enabling crewed Royal Navy helicopters to re-deploy on alternative missions if required and bolstering UK defence capability.
Director Develop Royal Navy, Rear Admiral James Parkin, said: “Proving the benefits of larger uncrewed aircraft (rotary and fixed wing) will be key to understanding whether such aircraft can effectively contribute to future Royal Navy capabilities, particularly for Anti-Submarine Warfare.
Capable of carrying a large payload, combined with the ability to operate in harsh environmental conditions, the aircraft could also demonstrate its utility across a range of requirements.”
Beyond Anti-Submarine Warfare, the project will address other potential uses including ship to ship resupply and casualty evacuation.
Sir Simon Bollom, DE&S CEO, said:
Our team were able to make use of a novel and agile delivery approach to ensure that we can accelerate potential new technologies through to the demonstration phase so that they can be delivered into the hands of the UK Armed Forces at the earliest opportunity if required.
The four-year contract will deliver an uncrewed demonstrator as part of intentions outlined in the Defence Capability Framework for future find, strike and lift capabilities to be increasingly delivered by uncrewed and autonomous systems.
Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters (UK), said:
Uncrewed VTOL aircraft will transform military capability whilst also having application in other market sectors, both in the UK and around the world. This contract represents a major step towards our future in next generation uncrewed military technology and the sustainment of unique engineering skills onshore. The uncrewed helicopter is due to undertake its first flight in 2025. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
20 Jul 22. With $100m, can the Senate save large undersea drone program from Navy chopping block? The Senate Armed Services Committee in its report justified the move by saying Snakehead could be “an important capability” once fielded.
A Senate panel overseeing the Navy is calling on the service to continue developing a high-profile unmanned undersea vehicle program and directed $100m in funding to keep the research afloat, despite the Navy’s request to discontinue the initiative.
“Despite program schedule underperformance, the committee believes the Snakehead Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle could provide an important capability to the fleet once fielded,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in its report accompanying the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill.
The panel published the full text of its bill earlier this week, and the legislation now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. There are still several steps in the legislative process that Congress must work through before it’ll be clear if the service actually receives that $100 m, such as negotiating with House lawmakers who granted the service’s request to cancel the program in their version of the bill.
But still, the abrupt change of course comes from a congressional panel that has historically worked to slow the service’s unmanned vehicle research, citing concerns about whether the technology behind the drones is fully baked.
For it’s part, the Navy in its budget request described issues with “limited availability of host platforms to conduct Snakehead operations” as well as “cost and schedule delays” associated with integrating the UUV onto the Virginia-class submarine.
The vehicle itself is envisioned to be launched from a submarine and able to host a wide range of payloads to take up missions that would otherwise divert resources away from the sub.
If the program is revived through this year’s defense policy and spending bills, then questions will linger both about how the Navy resolves the problems it cited as justifying the program’s cancellation as well as what negative side effects may have accrued during the several months that program officials had otherwise been planning on canning the drone. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
20 Jul 22. QinetiQ delivers world’s first demonstration of a laser controlled drone during flight. QinetiQ has delivered the world’s first successful demonstration of an airborne un-crewed platform being controlled via a laser communication system; strengthening military capability for covert, low detection probability operations in the future. The innovative demonstration saw a ground based operator control an airborne Un-crewed Air System (UAS), transmitting control commands and receiving sensor and platform information that included Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) as a bi-directional link in its mission communication system. FSOC provide very high bandwidth, very low probability of detection communications, low logistical footprint and the potential to negate the considerable investment that adversaries may have made in denying the RF spectrum.
The control of an airborne un-crewed platform has in the past been enabled via the use of radio frequency (RF) technologies, which are prone to detection and interference. This was a successful demonstration of an integrated FSOC system as a means of operation in a contested RF environment where there is a need for secure, covert operations.
The demonstration formed part of the DSTL Air Command and Control (C2), Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Interoperability project. The project objectives include improving both the digital interoperability and resilience of the communication systems that connect air platforms and associated capabilities (both current and potential). The outputs of the project are supporting exploitation activities within the UK MOD Front Line Commands, including Air, Land, Maritime and Joint.
Dave Dixon, QinetiQ Technical Lead for the project, remarked; “This innovative use of FSOC builds on the earlier Crewed-Uncrewed Teaming demonstrations that provided UK and European firsts in the live airborne control of UAS. It also showcases the talent and capability available in the UK and provides further evidence that teams comprising both humans and machines are an essential part of how militaries operate in the future”.
Rob Scott, QinetiQ Programme Manager, added; “To make it possible, we had to take a mission-led innovation approach and work very closely with Dstl and partners. We’d also like to thank AVoptics for their support and rapid integration of their WOLF FSOC system into the demonstration”.
The demonstration was a live-virtual event, using interoperable message standards to task a number of virtual platforms and the live UAS, using QinetiQ ACCSIOM swarm technology. The extensive ground and air space was provided by the Army within Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA).
19 Jul 22. Iranian navy shows off UAV capabilities. The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) displayed support ships equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a 15 July event attended by its Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, and armed forces Commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi.
“Using drones adds a significant capacity to our naval units and expands our dominance for hundreds of kilometres,” Rear Adm Irani said in a television interview.
The Iranian media released photographs and video footage, showing various UAV types being launched from the Hengam-class landing ship Lavan (514), the support ship Delvar (471), and a Kilo-class submarine that was identified as Tariq. Most were launched from rails using rocket boosters, including what appeared to be Ababil-2 and Arash types, which can be used to conduct one-way attacks. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) television news coverage of the event showed a floating target and a target on land being hit by UAVs. (Source: Janes)
18 Jul 22. Iran Unveils New Naval Drone-Carrier Division. The Iranian Navy has announced the introduction of what it’s calling its inaugural “drone-carrier” division. A corresponding unveiling ceremony aired on Iranian state TV showing the navy launching drones from various ships and even a submarine. The display points to Iran’s ongoing push to not only acquire more weaponized drone capabilities and capacity, but to deploy those systems via a diversified set of vectors — including from the sea.
Iran’s Navy has upgraded its force by incorporating a special division tasked with transporting and operating various drones, days after Washington threatened to use force against the Islamic Republic.
The first drone carrier division of Iran’s Navy, which is comprised of different surface and subsurface units, was unveiled in a ceremony in the international waters of the Indian Ocean, the Navy announced on Friday. The division is capable of carrying various combat, surveillance, and suicide drones and has joined the country’s southern fleet.
In the unveiling ceremony of the new drone division, which was held with high-ranking Iranian commanders in attendance, a number of drones produced by the Army, Defense Ministry, and knowledge-based firms showcased their capabilities. Home-made UAVs such as Pelican, Homa, Arash, Chamroosh, Jubin, Ababil-4, and Bavar-5 performed successfully in the military exercise in the Indian Ocean.
Other than drones that use vertical takeoff systems that were launched from surface vessels, combat drones have been launched from submarines including homegrown Fateh and Tareq submarines. This makes Iran the only country in the region with the ability to launch UAVs from subsurface units.
The chief commander of Iran’s Army Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi lauded the successful military exercise, pointing to the necessity of boosting the country’s defense in the face of threats. He said considering the “aggressive behavior” of the enemies, “it is necessary to add to our defense power by the day.”
Emerging fields such as the field of drones are of great importance and have a decisive role when it comes to strengthening defense power, he added. “Surveillance drones increase the intelligence power of our vessels hundreds of kilometers beyond the borders.”
Combat and suicide drones, the commander said, act as the upper hand of the Islamic Republic of Iran in international waters, “both creating deterrence against threats and also, if required, giving enemies a response that will make them regret in case they commit a mistake.”
Meanwhile, the Navy’s Rear Admiral Shahram Irani said the upgrade enables the naval force to have operational and air superiority in the depth of oceans while also boosting intelligence hundreds of kilometers away from surface and subsurface units. The Islamic Republic’s military doctrine holds that the country’s armed capability solely serves defensive purposes and poses no threat to other states.
The unveiling ceremony aired on Iranian state TV showing the navy launching drones from various ships and even a submarine. This broadcast was seemingly focused on highlighting how a lot of these UAVs are kamikaze drones designed for carrying out strikes. As to the actual type of drones to be employed by the division, reports indicate that UAVs such as Pelican, Homa, Arash, Chamroosh, Jubin, Ababil-4, and Bavar-5 were all utilized during the unveiling ceremony. (Source: UAS VISION/ Press TV; The Drive)
18 Jul 22. Valkyrie success may push Skyborg drone concept to other programs, Kratos says. Recent successful flights of two autonomous XQ-58A Valkyrie drones show the Air Force’s Skyborg program has proven itself and could be ready to start evolving its capabilities into new systems, a Kratos Defense and Security Solutions executive said.
“This is getting to the end of the Skyborg program, is where we are,” Jeffrey Herro, senior vice president for business development in Kratos’ unmanned systems division, said in an July 18 interview with Defense News at the Farnborough Air Show in England. “And then it will morph into other programs.”
Kratos’ Valkyrie drones have carried out flight tests before as part of the Air Force’s Skyborg program, an artificial intelligence-driven wingman that had its first flight test in a drone in April 2021.
Herro said the most recent flights differed from previous tests, though he would not specify exactly how.
“We definitely were looking at envelope expansion,” Herro said when asked if these flights entailed testing more advanced capabilities.
Herro also would not say where the tests took place or exactly when, aside from saying they took place within the last two months, and that they were successful. Kratos declined to say exactly how many flights occurred, aside from saying two Valkyries were involved, and there was a series of tests.
Skyborg will likely be wound down and the capabilities it has proven will feed into new systems for the Air Force in the near future, Herro said — possibly within a year.
“The future is here,” he said. “The Skyborg program has progressed to a place where the things that they’ve learned from it will almost assuredly be applied in a future and morphed program. What they have learned will definitely inform the follow-on programs to Skyborg.”
The Air Force in recent months has intensified its focus on teaming autonomous unmanned aircraft up with piloted fighters, with Secretary Frank Kendall calling it one of his top priorities. Kendall said he envisioned teams of about five autonomous drones — what the Air Force now refers to as collaborative combat aircraft — flying alongside F-35s or the Next Generation Air Dominance platform.
Lockheed Martin said this month it’s eyeing a mix of expendable drone wingmen and more advanced autonomous systems for the U.S. Air Force to team up with its manned fighters. The service could fly the expendable drones in as soon as three years, the vice president and general manager of the company’s advanced development programs division, known as Skunk Works, said July 11.
Drone wingmen that are ‘attritable’ if not expendable
Skyborg’s recent successes will likely help shape the Air Force’s development of these autonomous drone wingmen, whether the service decides to use Valkyries or other unmanned aircraft, Herro said.
Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter told reporters at the Pentagon last month that the service is trying to move beyond demonstrations of the manned-unmanned teaming concept and field a platform that could serve in this role.
Herro said recent comments from Kendall have shown the service has “recognized the fiscal reality” that its drone wingmen will have to be “attritable” — a term the Air Force uses to describe an aircraft that is not quite expendable, but inexpensive enough that if one is lost on a mission it is not overwhelming for the service.
He pointed to Kendall’s recent comments to Breaking Defense at the Royal International Air Tattoo that after initially exploring the idea of autonomous drones to fly with B-21 Raider bombers, the service concluded it wasn’t cost-effective and scrapped the idea.
Herro said Kratos’ work on Skyborg with its Valkyrie has proven it is feasible to create an autonomous, unmanned system that the service could afford to have shot down.
“And if you lose it, you did not break the bank,” Herro said. “That’s the important part. But you can still accomplish the mission set, by and large,” and more elaborate, expensive systems are not put at risk.
The basic version of each autonomous Valkyrie would likely cost between $3m and $5m apiece, he said, but as capabilities are added to allow it to carry out a specific mission — such as strike capability, electronic warfare or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — the price could as much as double. Herro predicted the per-unit cost would not top $10m.
If the Air Force decides to move forward on its manned-unmanned teaming concept, Kratos could start ramping up its production of Valkyries immediately, Herro said. Kratos studies show the company would likely be able to produce 25 Valkyries at first, but within about three years could ramp up its production to anywhere from 250 to 500 annually. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
18 Jul 22. Aeralis could offer UK ‘options’ after Mosquito cancellation, CEO. The Aeralis modular jet aircraft could offer the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) “options” regarding development of the uncrewed additive capabilities required for the future Tempest fighter following the recent cancellation of the Mosquito programme, company CEO Tristan Crawford has told Janes.
Speaking ahead of Farnborough Airshow, Crawford said that, following the MoD’s announcement in late June that it was axing the Mosquito ‘loyal wingman’ programme, the modular jet that Aeralis is developing with support from the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) could be a vehicle for exploring future options. (Source: Janes)
18 Jul 22. BAE Systems ‘in a good place’ to meet UK’s UAS Challenge. BAE Systems feels it is “in a good place” to meet the United Kingdom’s upcoming Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Challenge to develop quick-to-field uncrewed aircraft, unveiling its UAS Concept family of systems ahead of the Farnborough Airshow. BAE Systems’ head of the future systems, Steve Reeves, told Janes on 15 July that the company’s UAS Concept family could provide the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the options it is looking for under the UAS Challenge announced just the day before by chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston.
“For the UAS Challenge, I think we are very well placed to have conversations when that competition starts,” Reeves said at the Royal International Air Tattoo, where BAE Systems was showcasing full-sized mock-ups of its UAS Concept 1 and UAS Concept 2, with other concepts potentially in the offing also. (Source: Janes)
16 Jul 22. USAF scraps B-21 drone wingman concept. After doing some analysis, the idea appears to be “less attractive than we thought it might be,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Breaking Defense.
Last year, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made headlines when he announced plans to develop a drone counterpart for the still-yet-to be unveiled B-21 stealth bomber. Now, it appears the project is dead before it ever got off the ground.
“The idea of a similar range collaborative combat aircraft is not turning out to be cost effective, so it looks like we’re not going to go that direction,” he told Breaking Defense in an exclusive interview at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
After doing some analysis, the idea appears to be “less attractive than we thought it might be,” Kendall said, with the reasoning coming down to value. Bombers are by nature large planes — not only so they can carry large weapons payloads, but so they can fly at the long ranges needed for an aircraft to conduct a strategic strike anywhere in the world. But that size can drive cost, and in the end, the Air Force determined it wasn’t worth developing an unmanned B-21 counterpart that would be comparable in size to a large bomber.
“For relatively small platforms, taking a crew out can make it much cheaper,” he said. “But for large platforms, you don’t gain that much because the crew is only a small fraction of the weight, a small fraction of the cost by comparison.”
Kendall first announced his intention to start two new classified drone programs to Politico in December. Later that month, he disclosed that one of them was meant to be a wingman, of sorts, to the B-21, and part of a larger family of systems that would accompany the B-21 into battle.
“The B-21 is a very expensive aircraft. It has a certain payload and range. We’d like to amplify that capability it has to penetrate, which is valuable,” he said on Dec. 9.
As one of Kendall’s seven major priorities — what he terms “operational imperatives — the Air Force has spent half a year analyzing how it could structure a B-21 family of systems, soliciting industry for ideas and evaluating those inputs.
While the idea of a B-21 drone counterpart didn’t ultimately pan out, Kendall noted that other ideas are bearing fruit. “There are other things that we can do with the B-21 in a family systems context that we think are interesting,” Kendall said, adding that he couldn’t go into details given the secretive nature of the program.
Kendall’s other idea for a classified unmanned combat aircraft — a “Loyal Wingman”-style drone that could be paired with the fifth generation F-35 and the Air Force’s future sixth-generation fighter, known as Next Generation Air Dominance — is very much still of interest to the service and a program he remains “excited” by, he said.
The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 Raiders from prime contractor Northrop Grumman over the course of the program. Tom Jones, Northrop’s head of its aeronautics sector, confirmed to Breaking Defense today that the company is still on track to roll out the first B-21 by the end of 2022. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
19 Jul 22. Kratos completes flight series with two production XQ-58A Valkyrie UAVs. The XQ-58A Valkyrie is a long-range, tactical, low-cost, high-speed uncrewed air vehicle. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has successfully completed a series of flights with two production XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs).
The company is developing the XQ-58A UAV under the US Air Force’s (USAF) Skyborg programme.
Apart from Kratos and the USAF, the programme team includes the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate, 40th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) and 46th Test Squadron.
Kratos uncrewed systems division president Steve Fendley said: “The continued evolution and demonstration of the USAF Skyborg system is charting the course for the range of tactical applications Skyborg is intended to address and inform.
“These most recent Skyborg flights, with production Valkyrie aircraft being delivered on Skyborg contract, illustrate benefits and utility of these uncrewed systems while informing operational concepts and Concepts of Employment (CONEMPS).
“The entire Kratos team is excited to be part of this game-changing application space for military uncrewed aircraft systems.”
The programme involved five test flights, which were already completed by Kratos. The UAV completed its maiden flight test in March 2019, followed by the second test in June 2019. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
15 Jul 22. Boeing, U.S. Navy Demonstrate Manned-Unmanned Teaming with Super Hornet Flight Tests. Boeing [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Navy have completed a series of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) flight tests in which a Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet successfully demonstrated command and control of three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Boeing system engineers connected Block III’s adjunct processor, known as the Distributed Targeting Processor – Networked (DTP-N), with a third-party tablet to team with the UAVs. Boeing developed new software loads for the DTP-N specific to running the third-party tablet and transmitting commands. The software development, tablet connection to the fighter and all flight tests were completed in less than six months.
“Block III Super Hornet is executing on its guarantee of hardware – installed today – that is ready to receive the software of the future,” said Ben LeGrand, Boeing director of Mission Systems. “Block III Super Hornet will integrate third-party systems and software with minimal modifications.”
Boeing partnered with the F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265), Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (VX) 23 and 31, Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division at China Lake, Calif., and a third-party vendor on the demonstration. During the test flights, F/A-18 pilots entered commands into the tablet, which were processed and transmitted through Block III’s hardware. The UAVs executed all commands given by F/A-18 pilots during tests over a two-week period.
“This successful MUM-T demonstration represents a significant step toward the Navy’s vision for Distributed Maritime Operations. It highlights the potential of unmanned concepts to expand and extend the Navy’s reach,” said Scott Dickson, Boeing’s director for Multi-Domain Integration. “As part of a Joint All-Domain Command and Control network, teams of UAV conducting ISR missions led by the latest Super Hornets equipped with network-enabled data fusion and advanced capabilities would provide warfighters across the Joint Force with significant information advantage.”
With the largest digital touch screen in any fighter cockpit, the F/A-18 is an industry leader in the development and installation of the hardware and processing power needed for future digital capabilities and growth. The adjunct processor running the demonstration adds significant processing power to the F/A-18’s mission processing suite.
“Future fighter pilots will be the quarterback of the skies, orchestrating commands and controlling UAVs from the integrated Block III touch-screen cockpit,” said Mark Sears, Boeing vice president and program manager of F/A-18, EA-18G programs. “Block III Super Hornet is the bridge to the future and is a risk reducer for the Navy that is delivering on teaming, networking and interoperability now.”
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
Automation and robotisation are beginning to drive significant productivity improvements in the global economy heralding a new industrial revolution. The fund allows investors to benefit from this exciting opportunity, whilst also delivering the extremely attractive tax reliefs offered by the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). For many private investors, the amount of specialist knowledge required to assess investments in robotics is not practical and hence investing through a fund structure makes good sense.
The fund appoints expert mentors to work with each investee company to further maximise the chance of success for investors. Further details are available on request.