US industry continues efforts to enhance airborne autonomy
General Atomics announced on 11 August that an Avenger UAS, equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod containing an IRST21 search and track system, autonomously tracked and followed a target aircraft in a July 2021 industry-funded demonstration.
Chris Pehrson, GA-ASI VP of special programmes, said: ‘The success of this Avenger/Legion Pod demonstration represents an important step toward more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft and MUM-T [manned-unmanned teaming] in a complex battlespace.’
Integrating Legion Pod software into the Avenger Mission Management System took less than three months and was enabled through Open Mission System standards.
During the flight, Legion Pod with IRST21 detected multiple fast-moving aircraft operating in the area and fed target tracking information to the autonomy engine aboard Avenger autonomy engine, which prioritised the targets for engagement.
‘This flight demonstrates a critical sensor capability that enables unmanned combat air vehicles like the Avenger to operate autonomously in Joint All-Domain Operations,” said Dave Belvin, VP of Sensors and Global Sustainment at Lockheed Martin.
He added: ‘We designed Legion Pod to passively detect and track targets for tactical fighter pilots in radar-denied environments. This capability provides the data necessary to enable unmanned vehicles to track and engage hostile airborne targets without human intervention.’
More from Air Warfare
Germany has given the green light to replace its Tornado ECR aircraft with Eurofighter Typhoon EK, a dedicated variant for electronic combat and SEAD.
The US Air Force has ordered more Pegasus KC-46A multi-mission aerial refuelling aircraft with advanced communications and data connectivity.
DARPA and SOCOM's SPRINT programme, an effort to create an X-plane to demonstrate the key technologies to enable a combination of aircraft speed and runway independence, has moved to the next phase.
Boeing and South Korea have solidified plans that would see Boeing UAV design and technology capabilities implemented locally by South Korean companies.
Amid escalating tensions and technological advancements in drone warfare, Ukraine has reinforced its front lines with a delivery of 5,000 indigenous drones, paralleled by Iran's revelation of the new jet-powered Shahed-238.