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15 Sep 22. Lithuania’s Defence Ministry Budgets €36M for Procurement of Drones. The Lithuanian Defence Materiel Agency under the Defence Ministry has launched procurement procedures for 35 sets of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The plan is to buy 26 sets of “mini” and nine sets of “small” UASs for around 36m euros, the ministry said on Wednesday.
“The acquisition of these systems will significantly improve the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ intelligence capability,” Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said.
“Currently, the Lithuanian Armed Forces has no such military-purpose tactical-level UASs for reconnaissance tasks,” he added.
Lithuania also plans to acquire US-made Switchblade combat drones with the support of the US administration, according to the ministry.
(Source: UAS VISION/Lithuanian National Radio and Television)
14 Sep 22. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) today unveiled Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton autonomous aircraft during a ceremony at its high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) aircraft production site in California. The event, attended by Australian, U.S. government and defense officials, highlights the continued progress of the MQ-4C Triton program for both the Royal Australian Air Force and U.S. Navy.
“Today marks a significant milestone for Australia and the MQ-4C Triton program,” said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “As we get ready for final system integration and flight test, we are one step closer to delivering this extraordinary maritime awareness capability to Australia.”
Australia is a cooperative program partner in the Triton program and was critical in helping shape the requirements for the system. As partners, U.S. and Australian defense forces will be able to share data collected by their respective Tritons, a critical ability in one of the world’s most strategically important regions.
“Triton will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with an unprecedented capability to monitor and protect our maritime approaches” said Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. “Triton will work alongside the P-8A Poseidon and this unmanned aircraft system will allow us to cover significant areas, at longer ranges and has the ability to stay airborne longer than a traditional aircraft.”
Northrop Grumman initiated the build of the first Australian Triton in October 2020 at its production facility in Moss Point, Miss., and met another major production milestone in December 2021 when the fuselage and one-piece wing were mated in Palmdale, Calif. The aircraft is scheduled for production completion in 2023 and delivery to Australia in 2024.
Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems perform critical wide-area intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) missions. Today, autonomous HALE systems operate across the globe, with greater than 24-hour endurance, collecting essential ISR&T data over land and sea to enable rapid, informed decision-making. In the future, these systems will connect the joint force, implementing advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence and machine learning while delivering indispensable capabilities with fewer people to provide information at the speed of relevance.
15 Sep 22. Australia to decide on further Triton maritime drone orders after defence review. Australia will decide on whether to order up to four more Northrop Grumman Corp MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drones after a defence review next year, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) official said.
Australia, to date the only non-U.S. customer for the remotely piloted high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, has so far ordered three to compliment its fleet of crewed Boeing Co (BA.N) P-8A Poseidon planes.
The first Australian aircraft was unveiled in California on Wednesday. It is due for delivery in mid-2024, and will be based primarily in Australia’s tropical north but controlled from a base near the southern city of Adelaide.
Australia has been boosting its defence spending over the past few years as China steps up its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Last year, Australia agreed to buy nuclear submarines from the United States and Britain.
The new centre-left government last month announced a defence strategic review due in early 2023.
RAAF Head of Air Force Capability Air Vice-Marshal Robert Denney said at the Triton unveiling ceremony that the final number to be purchased would be decided after the review was completed.
“That defence review will take into consideration the decision not to proceed on SkyGuardian,” he said, referring to Australia this year scrapping plans to buy up to 12 General Atomics-built MQ-9B armed medium-altitude long-endurance drones.
The addition of Triton will allow Australia’s crewed P-8 planes to focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) rather than splitting their time between that and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), said Doug Shaffer, Northrop Grumman vice president autonomous ISR and targeting programmes.
“So a Navy maritime patrol gets 10 times more ISR and they free up the P-8 to focus on the ASW mission, so you get three times more ASW capability,” he said in an interview. “That is really the force multiplier by having a manned-unmanned teaming.”
The U.S. Navy, which also has P-8s, has deployed Triton from Guam and Japan. (Source: News Now/Reuters)
14 Sep 22. Swedish Navy trialling unmanned vessels in Baltic Sea demo. The Royal Swedish Navy (RSwN) has been trialling a range of unmanned vessels in the Baltic Sea to investigate how autonomous platforms can fit in with their existing operations, the Swedish Armed Forces announced on 7 September. Saab’s Enforcer III – a converted Combat Boat 90 that can be remotely operated – was involved in a southern Baltic Sea trial with the RSwN. The vessel is equipped with navigation and communication systems, sensors, cameras, and lasers for navigation, Saab said in a separate announcement.
The Swedish Armed Forces informed Janes that the Third Naval Warfare flotilla of the RSwN was involved in the demonstration. Although they were unable to provide further details regarding the trial at the time of publication, they noted that the trials were conducted recently.
According to the announcement, HMS Nyköping Visby-class stealth corvette was practising air defence and surface combat, while the Enforcer was engaged in advanced reconnaissance. During the trial, the Enforcer was able to detect targets and transmit the information to Saab personnel on Nyköping (Source: Janes)
13 Sep 22. AeroVironment Introduces Next-Generation All-Electric VAPOR 55 MX Helicopter Unmanned Aircraft System, Built for Heavier Payloads and Longer Distances.
- Next-generation VAPOR 55 delivers more simplified, modular design with performance improvements that optimize user experience
- Redesigned for increased levels of operational efficiency with 25 percent increased endurance and 20 percent increased payload capacity
- New payload interface and tool-free quick rail mount enables quick and easy field integration of both current and future payloads for increased mission flexibility
AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in intelligent, multi-domain robotic systems, today announced the launch of the next-generation VAPOR® Helicopter unmanned aircraft system (UAS), VAPOR 55 MX. Delivering new levels of operational performance with a completely redesigned modular autonomy framework, VAPOR 55 MX enables increased endurance and expanded payload capacity to meet current and emerging needs of defense, commercial and industrial customers.
“The new VAPOR 55 MX is an easy-to-maintain system that incorporates a highly versatile modular architecture and tool-free rail system for simple, efficient integration of third-party or custom payloads, allowing users to adapt to multi-sensor, multi-mission requirements including utility inspection, aerial surveying, public safety and defense applications,” said Trace Stevenson, AeroVironment vice president and product line general manager for small UAS.
Built on the class-leading endurance and payload weight performance of its predecessor, VAPOR 55 MX features a new sleek and efficient low-profile design that enables the helicopter UAS to stay in the air 25 percent longer and operate in all weather. VAPOR 55 MX is heavy-lift capable and its increased usable payload capacity allows users to choose from single or multiple payload configurations.
This expansive modular payload bay can carry up to 12 pounds of payload with more than 70 minutes of flight endurance while still maintaining the 55-pound gross take-off weight (GTOW) restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for commercial customers. For military customers that require more take-off weight, VAPOR 55 MX is capable of a 65-pound GTOW and can carry up to 22 pounds of usable payloads with a reduced endurance trade-off, nearing the edge of Group 3 weight class.
To learn more about the all-electric VAPOR 55 MX Helicopter UAS, visit www.avinc.com/uas/vapor. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
13 Sep 22. China demonstrates new UAV capabilities. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China’s state-owned defence enterprise, highlighted the launch of two new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – the FH-901 loitering munition and the CH-10 tiltrotor UAV – in a video shown during a forum on unmanned equipment in Beijing.
The video displayed a tank being attacked from the top by an FH-901 leading to its complete destruction, state-owned newspaper Global Times reported on 8 September.
Besides being cast from the ground surface, the FH-901 can also be launched in air by an aircraft, including a larger UAV, Global Times added.
The FH-901 has been termed by Global Times as the “Chinese equivalent” of the United States’ Switchblade UAV developed by Virginia-based AeroVironment Inc.
According to Janes All the World’s Aircraft: Unmanned, the Switchblade family, consisting of Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600, were developed for use as a precision-attack tool against beyond line-of-sight targets. These are manportable, tube-launched, and non-recoverable attack UAVs. (Source: Janes)
12 Sep 22. Protector Completes Acceptance Test Procedures. Acceptance Test Procedures (ATP) for the first Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft system was completed on Aug. 26, 2022. Completion of ATP allows for the official hand-over of the aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force, the launch customer of the MQ-9B RPA system developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc..
Protector is a specially configured model of MQ-9B, designed to meet the unique requirements of the RAF.
The aircraft was formally accepted by Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Director Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK Ministry of Defence.
“It is a great pleasure to accept the official handover of the first Protector aircraft on behalf of the MOD, following the successful completion of Acceptance Test Procedures. We now look forward to the first delivery of this highly capable aircraft type to RAF Waddington during 2023,” he said.
RAF Air Commodore Alex Hicks said: “The acceptance of the first Protector aircraft is a significant and exciting milestone in the delivery of this world-class capability to the Royal Air Force. The aircraft will be used to train RAF technicians how to maintain the capability, prior to the arrival of the first aircraft in the UK next year.”
ATP was performed jointly by the UK Ministry of Defence and GA-ASI following the completion of the aircraft production and acceptance procedures. ATP includes all inspections and tests performed on the hardware in operation for the aircraft and in conformance with the functional specification and technical requirements. Over the past two months, ATP has been performed at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, Calif. The aircraft will remain in the U.S. to support maintenance and pilot training.
ATP was also completed on the first two sets of Portable Pre-flight and Post-flight Equipment (P3Es). P3E is ground support equipment that replaces the legacy Ruggedized Aircraft Maintenance Test Station (RAMTS) used to support MQ-9A. It is used for ground testing and maintenance operations with a direct-connect to the aircraft.
“This is another major milestone for MQ-9B and the Protector program,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “The Royal Air Force has been a great partner for General Atomics, and we’re thrilled to see ATP completed for this first customer aircraft.”
MQ-9B represents the next generation of RPA systems, having demonstrated airborne endurance of more than 40 hours in certain configurations, automatic takeoffs and landings under SATCOM-only control, as well as a GA-ASI developed Detect and Avoid system. Its development is the result of a company-funded effort to deliver an RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities.
MQ-9B has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. After the UK Ministry of Defence selected MQ-9B SkyGuardian® for its Protector program, the Belgian Ministry of Defense signed a contract for SkyGuardian. Later this year, the Japan Coast Guard will begin operations using the MQ-9B in the SeaGuardian configuration. (Source: UAS VISION)
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.