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Valkyrie Unmanned Combat Aircraft Demonstrates Electronic Attack With F-35s – April 2

XQ-58A Valkyrie flying in front of two F-35 fighters. Photo: Defense Department

An XQ-58A Valkyrie autonomous unmanned combat aircraft equipped with an electronic attack payload successfully demonstrated suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) capabilities with two F-35 fighters in a recent live flight test event at Eglin AFB, Fla., Kratos Defense & Security Solutions said on Tuesday.

The test of Kratos’s low-cost Valkyrie completes the first phase of the Marine Corps’ Penetrating Affordable Autonomous Collaborative Killer-Portfolio (PAACK-P) program, part of an effort to inform requirements for the unmanned combat aircraft to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Aerial System Expeditionary Tactical Aircraft (MUX TACAIR) for use in the SEAD role.

Kratos received a $22.9 million phase two contract modification in December 2023 to conduct additional engineering and flight tests of the Valkyrie in support of the PAACK-P program.

“MUX TACAIR promises to increase the lethality and survivability of our current crewed platforms,” Lt. Col. Bradley Buick, Marine Corps Aviation Cunningham Group Capabilities, Research, and Integration officer, said in a statement. “These platforms are the future of air warfare.”

The Marine Corps last October conducted the first flight test of the Valkyrie as part of PAACK-P, which is aimed at having the unmanned aircraft serve as a cooperative combatant.

“We’re very excited about the mission capability demonstrated during the flight and the incredible effectiveness per cost that this enables, not to mention the elimination of risk to a human pilot, and elimination of risk to expensive manned platforms,” Steve Fendley, president of Kratos’s Unmanned Systems Division, said in a statement. He also said the test included electronic warfare systems supplied by Northrop Grumman.

Kratos said all flight-test objectives were successfully met. Valkyrie can operate as a loyal wingman with manned fighters, operate in swarms, and individually.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Valkyrie Unmanned Combat Aircraft Demonstrates Electronic Attack With F-35s – April 2 appeared first on Avionics International.

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UK’s Cranfield Wins Major Hydrogen Investment Boost – March 26

Cranfield University, a leading British aerospace research center, plans to establish the first UK airport-based large-scale hydrogen research hub, Aviation Week reported. This follows an $87 million funding win from a government-backed investment funding partnership and industry, the largest research funding awarded to Cranfield. The university plans to use these funds to scale up hydrogen-enabled aviation and expand its current work in feedstocks and fuel production; transport, storage and supply chain; and end users of aerospace and road vehicles.

The post UK’s Cranfield Wins Major Hydrogen Investment Boost – March 26 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Construction Begins on New Boeing MQ-28 Production Facility in Queensland – March 26

BRISBANE, March 26, 2024 — Construction will begin on Boeing’s [NYSE: BA] new production facility in Toowoomba, Queensland, to support the manufacture of Australia’s first military combat aircraft designed and developed in over 50 years – the MQ-28 Ghost Bat.

The 9,000 square-metre facility at the Wellcamp Aerospace and Defence Precinct is expected to be operational in the next three years. The company’s latest investment in Australia will bring new aerospace skillsets and technologies, such as advanced composites manufacturing and robotics to Queensland.

“Boeing Australia is investing to bring this innovative, uncrewed capability to market in the timeframe that supports our customers’ future needs,” said Amy List, managing director, Boeing Defence Australia. “The MQ-28 is designed to transform air combat and provide affordable mass for Australia and our allies.”

“We’re partnering with the Queensland Government and Wagner Corporation to build Boeing’s first final assembly facility outside of North America – which is indicative of our global focus and a continued commitment to a sustainable and robust Australian aerospace industry.”

Wagner Corporation will develop and manage construction of the facility at their Toowoomba precinct using sustainable construction methods, and work with Boeing to incorporate renewable technologies and human-centric design.

The MQ-28 production facility will include aerospace manufacturing capabilities, including carbon fibre composites manufacture, along with advanced robotic assembly for major components, and final assembly and test capabilities.

The post Construction Begins on New Boeing MQ-28 Production Facility in Queensland – March 26 appeared first on Avionics International.

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The Next Chapter for Bell’s H-1 Helicopters Begins – March 28

AMARILLO, Texas (March. 28, 2024) – The first Bell AH-1Z set to receive the Structural Improvement Electrical Power Upgrade (SIEPU) modification to be provided by Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc (NYSE:TXT) company, under a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps, has arrived at Bell’s Amarillo Assembly Center.  SIEPU modifications optimize the aircraft to improve mission capabilities, aircrew safety, and interoperability by increasing the electrical power capacity on the aircraft and support the integration of additional cabin capabilities. SIEPU marks the start of the next chapter in the life of domestic H-1 helicopters, following the completion of the U.S. Marine Corps Program of Record in November 2022. 

“The Bell AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom provide the backbone of attack and utility aviation support in the various battlespaces in which they are used, so SIEPU comes at an important time for the future strategic implementation of this platform,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 senior vice president and program director. “SIEPU will be immediately beneficial for today’s operations, and also sets the H-1 up to quickly support future operational needs, some that may not even be conceived of yet.”

With SIEPU, H-1s will be able to upgrade to current weapons systems with next generation capabilities, including kinetic long-range munitions and air launched effects as well as new non-kinetic capabilities. These upgrades greatly extend reach and range while simultaneously enhancing standoff distance.

While the H-1s have already demonstrated their capability to counter enemy unmanned aerial systems, SIEPU will also allow for there to be enough on-board power capacity for future weapons that are yet to be implemented.

“We are confident that SIEPU will help the Marine Corps expand mission essential tasks with more mission flexibility,” said Danielle Markham, SIEPU program manager. “The important thing is to make sure the H-1 is in a position to take advantage of those opportunities as they become available.”

Prior to arriving at the Bell Amarillo Assembly Center, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y completed datalink capabilities testing with the Marine Corps modifications at Camp Pendleton and testing with VMX-1 in Yuma. Bell plans to continue supporting the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom through the 2040s in alignment with the Marine Corps Aviation Plan.

The post The Next Chapter for Bell’s H-1 Helicopters Begins – March 28 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Honeywell Sees Consolidation and Longer Path to Market for eVTOL Makers – March 22, AIN

Honeywell Aerospace recently told reporters it expects the advanced air mobility market to consolidate, with some eVTOL developers dropping out and it does not expect to see air taxi operations launching until 2026, AIN reported. The company said uncrewed middle-mile cargo services could start up by the end of 2024 or early 2025 and that eVTOL freighters will ultimately make same-day delivery available anywhere. Honeywell Aerospace product management director Sapan Shah said it could take the FAA and EASA regulations another 12 months to be fully established.

The post Honeywell Sees Consolidation and Longer Path to Market for eVTOL Makers – March 22, AIN appeared first on Avionics International.

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Reliable Robotics Gains Fresh Funding for Autonomous Flight Tech – March 26, AIN

The autonomous flight and aviation company Reliable Robotics announced two contracts from the Defense Department and NASA that will help it bring remotely piloted aircraft to market, AIN reported. Reliable and Ohio University won a $6 million award for a research project for advancing autonomous flight technology and industry standards, while the Air Force’s AFWERX innovation unit selected Reliable to participate in the Tactical Funding Increase Program, which could provide up to $1.9 million. Reliable seeks to retrofit older models like the Cessna Caravan with an advanced navigation system and highly automated flight control system to allow remote piloting. 

The post Reliable Robotics Gains Fresh Funding for Autonomous Flight Tech – March 26, AIN appeared first on Avionics International.

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Honeywell To Acquire Italian PNT Company To Bolster Autonomous Capabilities – March 27

Italy's Civitanavi is a vertically-integrated developer and manufacturer of inertial sensors. (Photo: Civitanavi)

Honeywell on Wednesday said it has agreed to acquire Italy’s Civitanavi Systems S.p.A., a provider of position, navigation, and timing (PNT) technology to the aerospace, defense, and industrial markets, a deal that adds new technology to its product portfolio that will strengthen its ability to help customers for autonomous operations.

The $217 million deal is expected to close in the third quarter subject to clearing anti-trust authorities, approvals in Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada related to foreign direct investment regulations, and the tender of at least 95 percent of Civitanavi’s outstanding shares. Honeywell said Civitanavi’s controlling shareholder, which owns 66 percent of the company, has agreed to the deal.

Civitanavi specializes in fiber optic gyro technology that currently is not part of Honeywell’s navigation product suite. Honeywell said that Civitanavi’s inertial navigation, geo-reference, and stabilization systems will complement its existing navigation and sensors business.

“By integrating Civitanavi’s inertial technologies and sensors across Honeywell’s existing commercial, military, space, and industrial platforms, our customers across the globe will now have access to a more robust portfolio of aerospace navigation solutions in support of their journey toward autonomous operations,” Jim Currier, president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace Technologies, said in a statement.

Civitanavi had $50 million in sales in 2023.

UniCredit is Honeywell’s financial adviser on the deal.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Honeywell To Acquire Italian PNT Company To Bolster Autonomous Capabilities – March 27 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Army Is ‘Biggest Participant’ By Quantity In First Round Of Replicator, Bush Says – March 20

The Honorable Douglas R. Bush, assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology, receives a briefing of current V Corps operations at Victory Corps Forward, from U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Harris assigned to V Corps, during a visit to Camp Kościuszko, Poland, Sep. 8, 2022. Photo by Spc. Dean Johnson, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Army will be “the biggest participant” for the first round of the Pentagon’s Replicator initiative to field thousands of attritable autonomous systems by August 2025 “in terms of quantity,” according to the service’s acquisition chief.

“In the Army’s case, we had something that we were already working on that was similar [to Replicator’s requirements]. So we nominated that and luckily that made the cut. And so that was a win-win for the Army. Those are the ideal situations I think, when it’s something that the service needs to do, can’t quite get through its own system, [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] (OSD) is doing its cross-look oversight and accelerating where they believe it’s necessary for the enterprise. I think that’s the best use of an OSD-led system approach like Replicator,” Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said on Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks first announced the Replicator initiative last August, detailing the effort to produce and field thousands of “all-domain attritable autonomous systems, or ADA2 capabilities, over the next 18 to 24 months “to help us overcome [China’s] biggest advantage, which is mass.”

Bush did not offer further details on what capability will be scaled up as part of the initiative, which is in line with the department’s approach to not disclose specific Replicator details to the public.

“That’s a choice the department’s made to keep it rather buttoned up. Those in industry that we’re working with of course know [details], but there’s going to be a bit of a gap [for] those that aren’t involved directly just because of the classification structure they put around it,” Bush said during a panel discussion at the Reagan Institute’s National Security Innovation Base Summit in Washington, D.C.

In December, Bush said the Army had nominated three candidate systems for Replicator, confirming they were unmanned systems that are “bigger than a quadcopter but smaller than a MQ-1 [Predator drone].”

Gen. James Slife, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, joined Bush on the panel and said his service has “several compelling programs” that are being considered for Replicator.

“They’re not quite as technologically mature as some of the Army programs that are going to be in the [first round] of this. But we’re excited, frankly, about the prospects of Replicator,” Slife said. 

Hicks confirmed last week that the Pentagon plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years on Replicator, to include $500 million in FY ‘24 that will either be supported by a reprogramming request or included in the final defense appropriations bill and another $500 million included in its FY ‘25 budget submission.

“We need to see that [FY ‘24 funding] come to fruition. [The appropriators] have been very positive about it. But, of course, we don’t have an [FY ‘24 appropriations] bill and the reprogramming request continues to move through as an alternative path,” Hicks said during a separate discussion at the Reagan Institute event on Wednesday. 

“If the Ukrainians and Russians can put out thousands of UASs every month — every month — and we are having heart attacks over whether the Defense Department of the United States of America can put out multiple thousands over 18-24 months, if we can’t do that we have a much bigger problem than whether Replicator was a good success. And we say we want us to take risk, this is a good example,” Hicks added.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Army Is ‘Biggest Participant’ By Quantity In First Round Of Replicator, Bush Says – March 20 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Carmaker model may yield cheaper drone wingmen: Air Force Research Lab – Defense News, March 6

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is looking at the platform sharing concept that has been standard practice in carmaking for decades, which could make autonomous drones more affordable, Defense News reported. Platform sharing means producers mass-produce common underlying frames upon which they can build multiple vehicle models to save time, improve reliability and make the parts supply chain simpler. AFRL hopes this kind of approach could make it easier to create drone wingmen, like for in the Collaborative Combat Aircraft to work with crewed fighters. 

The post Carmaker model may yield cheaper drone wingmen: Air Force Research Lab – Defense News, March 6 appeared first on Avionics International.

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DIU Seeks Commercial Solutions For sUAS To Operate Amid Electromagnetic Interference – March 13

Eyeing lessons learned from ongoing global conflicts, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) this week issued a solicitation for commercial solutions that allow small uncrewed aerial systems (sUAS) and other small unmanned systems (UxS) to communicate in contested electromagnetic spectrum environments.

Solutions need to be able to contend with jamming, interference, spoofing, and other electromagnetic interference, the Defense Department unit says in the March 11 posting on its website. DIU is encouraging multiple communications pathways such as point-to-point and/or mesh networking.

“The DoD cannot expect to have unhindered freedom of maneuver in the electromagnetic spectrum,” DIU says. “We must expect an environment with challenges due to jamming, interference, or other factors, and be able to successfully operate sUAS and other UxS within it.”

In the week of March 11, The New York Times reported that Russian forces are increasingly able to electronically jam Ukrainian drones, limiting what has been an important tool for Ukraine, sUAS equipped with munitions.

The DIU solicitation is aimed at Group 1 and 2 UAS, which have maximum gross take-off weights up to 20 and 55 pounds respectively. Responses are due by March 25 and solutions must be ready to test within six to nine months.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post DIU Seeks Commercial Solutions For sUAS To Operate Amid Electromagnetic Interference – March 13 appeared first on Avionics International.

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