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24 May 23. US Army eliminates AeroVironment from future tactical UAS competition. AeroVironment, an early provider of Future Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft Systems to the U.S. Army, has been eliminated from the service’s competition for the next increment of the system.
The Army has long been working to select a Future Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft System, meant to replace its Shadow UAS fleet. In 2022, after a roughly four-year competition, the service awarded AeroVironment an $8 million contract to provide its Jump 20 system as an interim FTUAS capability for a single brigade. AeroVironment purchased Jump 20′s developer Arcturus in 2021. An undisclosed number of Jump 20s have been provided through U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.
AeroVironment declined a request for comment.
The Army wants its FTUAS to be a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, so it can be runway independent. Additionally, the service wants the system to offer improved maneuverability and the capability to be controlled on the move. Other planned attributes include a reduced transportation and logistics footprint and a quieter system than is offered today to avoid enemy detection.
The service in fall 2021 opened competition for a permanent system and, earlier this year, the Army selected five companies, including AeroVironment, to build prototypes. Now, the Army is awarding contracts to move into the design phase to Griffon Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada and Textron Systems — all of the competitors except AeroVironment.
The Army did not disclose the value of each contract awarded in a May 24 statement.
Since late February, the Army has evaluated the five submissions’ performance, cost, schedule, risk and modular open systems approaches, according to the service’s statement.
The effort going forward will include a series of design reviews. Then, competitors will be chosen to demonstrate capabilities in actual flight and will go through third-party verification of modular open system architectures.
If competitors pass through those gauntlets, each team will provide air vehicles, mission systems packages, payloads and ground controllers among other tools and manuals in order to go through qualification testing and operational assessments, the Army stated earlier in the competition.
The system is scheduled to enter full-rate production in the second quarter of FY26. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
24 May 23. Exosonic’s EX-3M “Trident” UAS Enters Testing Program.
Exosonic today announced the successful beginning of a ground and flight test program to validate the capabilities of its EX-3M “Trident” autonomous, open architecture, high-speed, developmental unmanned aerial system (UAS) test aircraft.
Exosonic designed, manufactured, and brought the EX-3M to flight test in only nine months. The team accomplished this by rapidly iterating the aircraft design, diversifying the supply chain, and maintaining the assembly process within Exosonic.
The Trident will serve as a quarter scale testbed to validate the autonomy software that will ultimately be incorporated into Exosonic’s full-scale supersonic UAV, the EX-3 “Revenant”, the supersonic fifth-generation aerial target UAS that Exosonic is designing under a $1.250 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the USAF. In addition to the aerial target role, Exosonic will investigate a modified EX-3 version to serve in the adversary air role as well. The EX-3M was inducted into a rigorous testing program by completing a series of ground taxi tests at the New Cuyama UAS test range in the California high desert near Santa Barbara. The ground testing is being performed to verify taxi and takeoff characteristics in advance of a series of planned Summer 2023 flights which will validate vehicle performance and autonomous capabilities.
“I’m extremely proud of the team for getting the Trident vehicle designed, assembled, and into the test program in only nine months.” said Norris Tie, Exosonic’s CEO and co-founder. “They worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to reach this point.”
Exosonic Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Timothy MacDonald, PhD described the testing as “An excellent beginning to a comprehensive testing program. We were able to put our aircraft through its paces out in the field and gather some great results. The data will now be analyzed, and we’ll move to further ground testing and flight testing.” As Exosonic completes the flight test program, the company will explore commercial opportunities to leverage the EX-3M as an autonomy testbed or as a research vehicle to demonstrate USAF critical capabilities. Exosonic is currently in discussions with several commercial entities to demonstrate crewed-uncrewed teaming. (Source: ASD Network)
23 May 23. Satellite Image Shows WZ-8 Supersonic Drone at Chinese Base.
A satellite image obtained by Defense News shows what appears to be a WZ-8 supersonic reconnaissance drone parked outside one of two newly built hangars at China’s Lu’an Airbase. China is continuing to revamp a bomber base that was identified in recently leaked U.S documents as hosting a new supersonic reconnaissance drone.
The satellite image, provided to Defense News by Planet Labs, shows Lu’an Airbase in China’s Anhui province. The previously unoccupied base is undergoing an upgrade, with construction beginning sometime between April 2018 and early 2019. Improvements include the resurfacing of the 3,200-meter (3,500-yard) runway, the widening of taxiways, and the construction of 20 bomber-sized aircraft shelters and two hangars to replace open aircraft parking bays.
China also built munitions checkout facilities on base, according to Decker Eveleth, a student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey who reviewed the satellite photo given to Defense News. Eveleth explained that such checkout facilities are used to inspect munitions before they’re loaded onto aircraft for use.
These buildings are usually found at bases for bombers and ground-launched missiles, Eveleth added, and tend to be “long, tall buildings with doors at both ends,” with missiles usually fixed to a rail for inspection at various stations for examining various components.
Lu’an Airbase is home to the 29th Air Regiment of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s 10th Bomber Division, according to Andreas Rupprecht, who has authored several books on Chinese military aviation and the industry.
The WZ-8 was also seen on a satellite photo taken in December 2022, while another from early April 2023 showed continued progress in widening the aircraft taxiways leading to the base’s underground aircraft facilities south of the runway.
Using Google Earth’s measuring tool, Defense News assesses that the new taxiways are approximately 25 meters (82 feet) wide, compared to 14 meters (46 feet) previously. However, the underground facilities, which run underneath nearby hills, have yet to be widened.
The presence of WZ-8s at the base was noted in a document ostensibly from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and leaked online through the social media platform Discord. A member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is accused of leaking the highly classified information.
Defense News has been unable to verify the veracity of the document. Aric Toler, a researcher with investigative journalism group Bellingcat who has written extensively on the Discord leaks, told Defense News he had not seen the document before.
The published document showed two WZ-8s at the base, which it called “Liuan,” and claimed the imagery was taken during a reconnaissance satellite pass on Aug. 9, 2022.
One of the drones was outside the same hangar as that seen on the satellite photo provided to Defense News, while the other was being towed along the runway.
The document also outlined possible mission flight profiles of the WZ-8, suggesting that it could perform reconnaissance missions over South Korea and Taiwan with a daylight sensor suite including a synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical sensor while flying at Mach 3 at an altitude of 100,000 feet.
It also suggests the drones could recover at China’s coastal airfields following the completion of their missions, landing at bases such as Dashuibo in Wendeng on the Shandong Peninsula or Huian, which is west of Taiwan. (Source: UAS VISION/Defense News)
24 May 23. Resumption of Operation of the Swiss Reconnaissance Drone System (ADS 15). The Federal Office for Armaments, armasuisse, has repaired a malfunction in a drone of the reconnaissance drone system (ADS 15) and determined the cause. Operations have therefore resumed at the Emmen military airfield.
On April 4, 2023, following an incident involving a reconnaissance drone system drone (ADS 15), the Swiss military aviation authority (MAA) issued an airworthiness directive (AD). This was motivated by the impossibility of immediately determining the cause of the incident. It led to the suspension of flight operations as a precaution and until further notice of the operation of the ADS 15 system in Switzerland.
Resumption of flights
The investigations carried out to determine the origin of the incident are now complete. The failure was due to a leak at the connection between the turbocharger and the engine’s intake manifold, which resulted in a loss of engine power. The latter was detected by the pilot, who initiated a landing accordingly.
The fault has been repaired on the drone concerned. Also, as a precaution, a follow-up check was carried out on all other drones.
In the event of an incident, all aspects are reviewed during follow-up, which is labor-intensive and time consuming. Once the cause of the incident was determined and the fault repaired, a first flight could take place after the incident.
As soon as the works is completed, the airworthiness directive issued by the military aviation authority will be revoked. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Armasuisse)
23 May 23. New Hoverfly Spectre 2.0 Tethered UAS Unveiled. Hoverfly Technologies Inc., a worldwide supplier of tethered drone technology, has released Spectre 2.0, the newest tethered system for mission critical situations. The new platform offers various performance improvements to its predecessor and has expanded carrying capacity with open architecture to accommodate many different payloads.
Early adopters of Hoverfly technology will quickly understand the advancements and efficiencies of the new system.
Standard Platform, Multi-Mission Capable
Spectre 2.0 is no different from other robust, rapidly deployable tethered UAS provided by Hoverfly. Either vehicle mounted or stationary deployment, the system is soldier ready and field proved for on demand, persistent surveillance and communication network extension (designed in accordance to MIL-STD 810). With only minimal changes to the overall form factor of the system the carrying capacity has progressed to 5+ lbs. The elevated payload capacity allows not only more advanced payloads, but also multiple payloads. The open architecture has dual ethernet and power connections on the aircraft to eliminate any batteries for long endurance missions.
Advanced EMI Resilient Design
Designed in accordance to MIL-STD 461, the Spectre 2.0 is purpose built to radio payloads for communication network range extension. Often referred to as the Variable Height Antenna (VHA), Hoverfly systems have been the backbone of soldier networks for years. The enhanced aircraft design, along with the increased payload capacity, allows for additional radio integration for maximum distance connection.
Software Upgrades, GPS Denied Operation
Spectre 2.0 comes ready with advanced self protection logic, allowing the system to monitor itself and land should it find the environment is no longer suitable for flight operations. Further, the ability to operate in a GPS contested environment will be available for the Spectre 2.0. This new capability has proven its effectiveness in combating pervasive GPS jamming devices. This marks a historical achievement for tethered aircraft and was part of the operational requirements for several Department of Defense stakeholders.
“We’re thrilled to bring this new platform to market with many new advanced capabilities” said Steve Walters, President and COO of Hoverfly. “Our engineering team has done a tremendous job working diligently on designing a comprehensive tethered platform that offers both surveillance and communication network extension capabilities. I’m excited to get these systems in the hands of the end users to see their reactions to the dramatic improvements we’ve implemented for these new platforms.”
(Source: UAS VISION)
22 May 23. British Army seeks new small armed UAS capability. With a focus on modular payloads and versatility, the army aims to employ UAS solutions that swiftly adapt to evolving tactical situations. The UK Ministry of Defence has issued a request for information on small armed unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to enhance the British Army’s operational capabilities. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released a request for information on small armed UAS, which the British Army could use to bolster its military capabilities. Seeking innovative solutions, the MoD aims to explore potential armed UAS capabilities with a maximum take-off weight, including payload, of 350g.
In the recently published documents, the British Army expressed keen interest in small armed UAS featuring modular payloads, enabling users to switch out equipment as tactical situations evolve.
The army wants explicitly expandable or reusable solutions tailored to the tactical scenario and payload requirements.
One of the critical requirements for the UAS is its ability to be launched in multiple ways, ensuring flexibility in various scenarios. Additionally, the UAS should have a minimum flight time of 20 minutes, regardless of the payload carried.
By seeking this information, the MoD aims to understand the armed UAS marketplace comprehensively and allow industry stakeholders to present potential solutions while highlighting development opportunities.
They are also expected to brief the ministry on any future developments in this field and disclose any contracts they may have for supplying solutions to other governments. Furthermore, respondents will have the opportunity to present or demonstrate their equipment to the MoD if invited.
The emergence of small armed UAS has become increasingly apparent during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These UAS, from retrofitted to bespoke systems, are being employed to target personnel and vehicles using air-released munitions, including grenades.
According to GlobalData’s “UK Defence Market 2022-2027” report, the UAS that the UK is in the ongoing process of buying TUAV Nano-unmanned Aerial Vehicles (nUAS) from Elbit Systems and Atlas Dynamics and does also have an ongoing Maritime Heavy Lift UAS procurement for $509m from Molloy Aeronautics and W Autonomous Systems.
Investment in the UAV domain in the region is primarily driven by forward-looking development programs such as the maritime heavy-lift UAS programs, among others.
The global military UAV market is valued at US$11.1bn in 2023 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.18% over the forecast period. It is expected to reach US$18.4bn by 2033 and cumulatively value US$172.9bn over the forecast period, according to “The Global Military UAV Market Forecast 2023-2033” report.
With its request for information, the British Army aims to enhance its small armed UAS capabilities, ensuring adaptability and flexibility in response to evolving operational requirements.
By embracing modular payloads and versatile solutions, the army seeks to effectively maintain an edge in modern warfare and address emerging threats. (Source: army-technology.com)
22 May 23. Navantia, SAES, Perseo to Develop a Line of UUVs.
Navantia, SAES, and Perseo have announced during the FEINDEF (defence and security exhibition) their intention to develop a line of unmanned underwater vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art sensors to deploy exploration and surveillance capabilities in increasingly demanding operational theatres.
Navantia has launched a roadmap to incorporate a range of solutions based on unmanned vehicles (UXV) into its product catalogue, aiming to cover the full spectrum of missions to be executed in different domains: naval, aerial, and land, where these platforms provide tactical superiority. This roadmap is part of the company’s Horizon 5.0, a long-term plan through which Navantia aims to strengthen its systems business as a core activity alongside shipbuilding, intelligent services, and green energies.
In the submarine domain, SAES, a leading company in underwater acoustics and electronics with nearly 35 years of experience in developing technologies in this field, positions itself as one of the main national players to provide tactical and mission capabilities to unmanned vehicles (UXVs) based on its expertise in sonar technology, underwater communications, and operational concepts for various missions. SAES, whose essence and strategy are summarised in its new brand “innovate, develop, and protect”, approaches this field from two perspectives: collaborating in their development to make them truly autonomous and using them in conjunction with other proprietary systems to provide submarine defence solutions within the scope of its business lines.
Perseo Techworks, a Spanish company specialising in UXV, numerical simulation, onboard electronics, rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, IoT, and artificial intelligence, has extensive knowledge and experience in the sector, participating in various European projects and R&D+i at the national level.
SAES and Perseo, together with Abance Ingeniería y Servicios, Arisnova, and Eolos Floating Lidar Solutions, participate in the E-PARK+ project, led by Navantia, which seeks to develop solutions for digitising the operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms using unmanned vehicles alongside other industry companies.
At FEINDEF, a UUV prototype with distinctive features that would allow it to cover a multitude of missions has been exhibited. This first approach is focused on its use in mine countermeasure (MCM) missions, although its possible application as an advanced sensor or loitering munition is being studied based on the same development and with few modifications. Donato Martínez Pérez de Rojas, Technologies and Digital Transformation Director and Systems and Services Director at Navantia, Joaquín López Pagán, President and CEO of SAES, and Sergio Olmos Guío, CEO of Perseo Techworks, have expressed their commitment to collaborate in promoting innovation in the field of autonomous underwater vehicles. “Unmanned vehicles are an asset of growing importance for the armed forces and civilian applications. Navantia already has experience in the development of unmanned surface vessels (USV), and together with SAES and Perseo, we want to expand our catalogue to those intended for the submarine domain,” said Donato Martínez.
According to SAES President Joaquín López Pagán, “at SAES, we are committed to the development of sustainable technologies in the naval sector. Our experience in underwater acoustics and electronics positions us as one of the main players in providing autonomy to unmanned vehicles and collaborating in their development to make them truly autonomous. Moreover, as they do not require human crew members, these vehicles are a safer and more economical option for carrying out defence missions and civilian applications.”
“The development of unmanned systems requires specific technologies and working methodologies for competitive developments. Perseo Techworks works on these enabling technologies within a work scheme that allows for rapid iterations, in which simulation, rapid prototyping, and testing and trial capabilities are intertwined to create products with very short development times and adaptable to a constantly changing market,” says Sergio Olmos Guío. (Source: ASD Network)
19 May 23. JMSDF begins SeaGuardian UAV assessment. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has commenced trials of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SeaGuardian medium altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) from the service’s Hachinohe Air Base in northern Honshu on 9 May.
The latest development follows a company announcement in February, which stated that it had been selected to support the JMSDF for its MALE UAV Trial Operation Project, with work expected to have started in April.
The UAV has already gained an inroad with Japan, with the coast guard having commenced flight operations in October 2020 aimed at validating the performance of the air vehicle and its sensors. The effort was also carried out at the JMSDF’s Hachinohe Air Base.
It is understood that Japan Coast Guard-operated SeaGuardians are expected to be mainly conducting maritime wide-area searches over the Sea of Japan – especially the Yamatotai Bank west of Japan that is routinely subject to illegal fishing by foreign boats – and the Pacific Ocean.
“SeaGuardian is the world’s premier asset for performing maritime wide-area searches,” Robert Schoeffling, VP of International Strategic Development at GA-ASI, earlier commented. “We’re proud to support the government of Japan’s policy to strengthen its maritime security.”
JCG SeaGuardians are equipped with the Raytheon SeaVue multi-mode maritime surface search radar with an inverse synthetic aperture radar imaging mode, an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor plus a high-definition full-motion video sensor and an Automatic Identification System (AIS).
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) also operates the high-altitude long endurance (HALE)-class RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV developed by Northrop Grumman. The first of three RQ-4 Block 30i air vehicles ordered by Japan arrived home after a transatlantic flight from the company’s Palmdale facility in March 2022, with first local JASDF-operated flights understood to have commenced in December that year. (Source: AMR)
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