The Pentagon approved full-rate production of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle multi-role unmanned aircraft on July 26. That same day, manufacturer General Atomics reported the first flight of an improved version of the aircraft that it will demonstrate to the U.S. Army later this year.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are moving forward with competing solutions for the guidance section of a future joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM) under a continued technology development (CTD) phase. Restructured in response to reduced funding, the Army-led effort will initially focus on the missile’s front-end guidance section, leaving the warhead, motor and control actuation to a later phase.
Raytheon’s new small tactical munition (STM), which the U.S. group claims is the first purpose-built weapon for tactical unmanned air systems (UAS), could be in active service within a few months. The U.S. group told AIN it is currently integrating the STM on “a couple of platforms that we can’t disclose,” while reporting interest from the U.S. Marines in weaponizing their Shadow UAS with the new device as well as possible special forces applications.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is continuing to expand the capabilities of the Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter with sensor upgrades, a new weapon option and greater networking capabilities. The latter is being achieved through the Longbow unmanned aerial system tactical common data link assembly (UTA), a product of Longbow LLC (a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman).
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is continuing to expand the capabilities of the Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter with sensor upgrades, a new weapon option and greater networking capabilities.
Lockheed Martin has launched a new marketing drive to sell MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters internationally. Last week it won a $3.2 billion deal to supply 24 MH-60R versions to the Royal Australian Navy.
Missile developers in the U.S. are working on new weapons that combine the effects and capabilities of several previous munitions into single weapons, with the aim of significantly reducing the number of types held in the inventory and dramatically increasing the in-flight flexibility of aircraft and helicopters compared with current armament options.
France is buying the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II missile system to give its 40 Tiger HAD (Hélicoptère d’Appui Destruction) helicopters a versatile precision attack capability. The purchase is being handled under U.S. Foreign Military Sales and will be complete by 2012. Eurocopter has already begun integration of the Hellfire II on to the Tiger HAD version, working under contract to the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation.
The Dubai airshow is a benign environment. As you cruise the air-conditioned halls, or sip your drink while watching airplanes cavort in the sunny skies, it’s easy to forget that war is going on. In the air. Just 800 miles from here. That is roughly the distance from Dubai to Baghdad in one direction, and to Kandahar in another.
With the air war in Iraq increasingly dominated by close-air support (CAS) operations and the need to engage rapidly emerging targets in heavily populated areas, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with precision weapons has also increased. Before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Air Force Predator UAVs routinely carried weapons, and the practice has now become an everyday part of U.S. military operations.