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12 Oct 22. Kaman to develop logistics UAS prototype for USMC.
The company will develop a military prototype version of its medium-lift KARGO UAV. Kaman Air Vehicles has been selected to develop a logistics uncrewed aerial system (UAS) prototype for the US Marine Corps (USMC).
This new project is part of the Medium Unmanned Logistics Systems – Air (MULS-A) programme. It is being managed by the Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Small Tactical UAS programme office (PMA-263). Under this contract, Kaman will develop a new military prototype version of its KARGO purpose-built medium-lift logistics uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV).
Following the development of initial prototype, the KARGO UAV will undergo a ‘field user capability assessment’. This test will allow the vehicle to carry out operations in a specific test environment. (Source: naval-technology.com)
11 Oct 22. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully performed the first flight tests of the next-generation flight computer for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The tests took place at GA-ASI’s El Mirage Flight Test Facility in El Mirage, Calif., as part of the U.S. Army-funded development efforts to upgrade and modernize the GE-ER.
GA-ASI successfully flight tested the new Flight Control Module (FCM) on Sept. 13-14, 2022. The flights included the Eagle Flight Computer Assembly (EFCA) that provides increased processing power, memory, and a high speed ethernet interface. Modernized avionics will enable advanced computing, Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), and automation, as well as redundancy, and environmental improvements.
This series of flight tests also provides critical risk reduction for the FCM-based Gray Eagle 25M UAS along with advanced datalinks, avionics, and communications enhancements, and HFE 2.0 and Brushless Generator capabilities, which are scheduled to begin flight test in early 2023.
“Together with our U.S. Army teammates, we’re making important progress in preparing GE-ER for successful Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) in contested environments,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Army Programs Don Cattell. “Completion of the GE-ER modernization enables mission readiness, reliability, versatility and success for the Army’s highest priority Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Targeting and Acquisition (RSTA) missions at all echelons of command.”
12 Oct 22. Textron Systems delivers Aerosonde UAS to Nigerian Army.
The vehicles will be deployed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Textron subsidiary Textron Systems has confirmed the start of the first operational flights of its Aerosonde uncrewed air system (UAS) for the Nigerian Army.
Aerosonde 4.7 Fixed Wing UAS vehicles were delivered to Nigeria as part of a foreign military sale (FMS) contract approved by the US State Department.
According to Textron Systems, the ‘first UAS capability of its kind’ in Nigeria will be deployed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
The capability is also expected to meet the nation’s domestic security needs.
The deal also requires the company to provide Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) services including sustainment, logistics services, parts and repairs support, technical publication updates, and asset support.
Aerosonde offers full-motion video, wide area surveillance, voice communications relay, and signals intelligence during the day and night.
The UAS’ multi-mission capability enables it to be deployed for expeditionary land and sea-based missions.
So far, the system has covered over 585,000 flight hours worldwide.
Textron Systems Air Systems senior vice-president Wayne Prender said: “We are excited to see the continued expansion of Aerosonde to our partner countries.
“This delivery adds to our increasing international presence and highlights the market growth for advanced uncrewed capabilities.
“We know the Aerosonde system will make a difference for Nigeria as it provides the most cost-effective, real-time ISR capability in its class.”
In August this year, Textron Systems commenced training for US Army personnel on the use of its Shadow tactical uncrewed aircraft system (TUAS). The Shadow TUAS will support the US Army Combat Aviation Brigades and special forces. (Source: army-technology.com)
10 Oct 22. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has launched its latest variant of the Gray Eagle line of Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Gray Eagle 25M. The GE-25M brings a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) to the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)-capable system to ensure incremental enhancements can be made at the speed of emerging threats.
The “M” in 25M stands for Modernized and incorporates open architecture aircraft and ground systems, advanced datalinks, and an upgraded propulsion system, significantly enhancing the ability to add new capabilities, provide resilience to electronic threats, and deliver expeditionary employment to austere locations.
“GE-25M incorporates MOSA across the aircraft and ground system architectures, which enables rapid integration of advanced payloads and communication equipment, along with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) capabilities,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Army Programs Don Cattell. “This will reduce the sensor-to-shooter timelines, while simultaneously reducing the datalink bandwidth requirements in a contested environment, thus increasing range and resiliency.”
The onboard ‘edge processing’ capability will maximize the utility of the Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance aircraft providing, in near real time, threat Detection, Identification, Location and Reporting (DILR) to the U.S. Army and Joint Force. Furthermore, the software components are being designed to be portable to other manned and unmanned aircraft systems the U.S. Army is developing, enhancing capability while reducing cost.
Multi-Intelligence sensors on the new UAS deliver actionable information, providing commanders with reach, overmatch, and combat options. GE-25M provides advanced teaming with Future Vertical Lift (FVL), Air-Launched Effects (ALE), and joint assets for Stand-Off Survivability with Stand-In Capability, facilitating convergence among cross-domain fires.
The new platform provides critical Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition (RSTA) capability to Division Commanders, and acts as a quarterback providing a persistent, key communication node in the aerial tier network.
Earlier this year, factory upgrades began on two U.S. Army Gray Eagle Extended Range UAS which will become the first 25M variants. These 25M aircraft are scheduled for flight test and qualification beginning in 2023. The GE-25M comes packaged with a next-generation SAR with long range sensing and navigation capability, and a menu of advanced sensors and payloads mission-tailorable options. The GE-25M is controlled from a laptop-based MOSA ground station, reducing material footprint while dramatically improving transportability, as well as enabling expeditionary operations.
09 Oct 22. Competition heats up for Army’s future tactical UAS. The U.S. Army is poised to launch a competitive prototyping effort for a tactical drone after selecting AeroVironment’s Jump 20 earlier this year as an interim option. And according to Army aviation leaders, the pool of competitors appears significantly larger than when competition began in 2019.
In 2018, the Army began considering requirements for a replacement for the Textron-made Shadow drone. The aircraft is widely used, but is one of the most accident-prone unmanned aerial systems in the service’s inventory. It is also difficult to deploy and has a loud engine, allowing for easy detection.
By 2019, the service narrowed the pool of competitors to two: a Martin UAV-Northrop Grumman team and Textron Systems’ AAI. Martin UAV supplied its V-Bat system, while Textron offered its Aerosonde HQ.
Shortly after, the Army added two more aircraft for evaluation: L3Harris Technologies’ FVR-90 and Arcturus UAV’s Jump 20. In 2021, AeroVironment acquired Arcturus for $405m.
For about a year, operational units evaluated the four different tactical drones, culminating in a rodeo in spring 2021 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Two units received Arcturus’ offering, while the other systems went to one unit each. That approach was based on the number of systems readily available and the service’s desire to get platforms to five units.
At the Fort Benning rodeo, all five units tried each offering to compare them.
“Although the demonstrations were a critical portion of that to inform the requirements, they weren’t necessarily going to be used as source selection,” Maj. Gen. Robert Barrie, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, told Defense News in a recent interview.
Demonstrations wrapped up in the first half of 2021, but it took until August 2022 for the Army to select one company to build an initial tranche of systems. The service was working through requirements, an acquisition strategy and waiting for congressionally approved funding.
The Army in August awarded AeroVironment an $8 m contract to pay for one Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, which includes six air vehicles, ground data terminals and ground control stations. The system will go to a single brigade combat team.
“Increment 1 … really represents the current state of industry regarding performance capabilities that are going to get us rapidly deployable, runway independent, expeditionary, [a] vertical takeoff [capability],” Barrie said ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. “Increment 1 allows us to field a capability today that’s available.”
Increment 2, in which the Army prepares for a competitive prototyping phase, “builds on that with all of those current demonstrated capabilities, [but] it’s going to increase range, [and] it’s going to incorporate a scalable control interface, which [gives] the ability for multiple soldiers in multiple places to be able to control an Increment 2,” Barrie said.
The second increment should also offer upgraded sensor capability — “specifically an enhanced laser designator,” he added. The system is expected to offer more interoperability through manned-unmanned teaming, for example, and provide an improved controller interface.
Additionally, he noted, the second increment must enable organic maintenance of the system so the Army can “break ourselves of contractor logistics support.”
Following the Increment 2 competitive process, which will involve multiple vendors, the Army plans to choose a winner and buy its system in larger quantities than in Increment 1.
“It will be an incremental downselect [process] to maximize all of the competition,” Barrie said.
Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, who manages the Army’s future vertical lift technology development, said five units went through one of the longest soldier evaluations the Army has ever done, and by the end were “pretty much demanding that technology.”
Because of that demand, the Army decided to progress in an incremental fashion, providing a unit immediate capability, but then competing to pursue what the service considers to be a truly “transformational capability,” Rugen said.
The incremental approach and a competition for a second increment are meant to help the Army get the best value for the best capability, according to Barrie.
“One could argue: ‘OK, [AeroVironment] won … therefore they have a leg up.’ The other side is, we have well understood costs and capabilities and limitations with those systems,” Barrie added. “So as we go into a competitive environment, we will know very well what their system can do, and we’ll be able to compare it against other systems.”
Asked whether to expect more industry participation this time around, Barrie said: “100%, yes. In fact, I know we have a bigger pool.”
He wouldn’t provide a specific timeline on the Increment 2 prototyping effort, but said decisions will come in fiscal 2023.
According to FY23 Army budget documents, the service plans to enter FTUAS Increment 2 competitive prototyping in the first quarter of FY23 and wrap it up in the first quarter of FY25. The Army is slated to make a rapid fielding decision in the second quarter of FY25 and to hold an operational evaluation in the third quarter of FY25. The system is planned to then enter full-rate production in the second quarter of FY26. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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.
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