Low-Cost Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle

Discussion in 'U.S. Air Force' started by Technofox, Aug 20, 2016.

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  1. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Air Force To Test Target Drone Turned Low-Cost Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle

    The USAF is interested to see what it can get out of a very budget-oriented UCAV.

    [​IMG]

    The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded target drone builder Kratos a contract to execute what it calls a Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System Demonstration (LCASD). This proof-of-concept initiative is centered on creating a (relatively) cheap unmanned combat aircraft that the USAF can afford to lose in combat, even opting to do so willingly by sending it on a one-way mission if need be. Alternatively, if the vehicle had the range to return to friendly territory, it could be repeatedly recovered and launched again on other missions, even from small bases without runways.

    The contract’s total value is $40.8 million, but the Air Force is only coughing up around $7 million, with the rest coming out of Kratos’s pocket. A press release from Kratos states that, in exchange for their much larger contribution, they will “retain hard and other assets including aircraft, related support and other equipment, and important intellectual property, software, data, platform, and system rights. Additionally, planning by AFRL includes a desire to further evolve the system via subsequent technology maturation Government funded spirals valued at approximately $100 million.”

    Here is exactly what the AFRL wants out of this demonstration phase:

    The LCASD system KUSD will provide a configurable design for multiple variants, anticipated to perform various missions that could require Nap-of-The-Earth (NOE) Flight, Cruising at High Altitudes, Defensive Counter Air (DCA) Maneuvers, Offensive Counter Air (OCA) Maneuvers, the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and the Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD). Additionally, the System will also incorporate performance capability including extreme agility for missile avoidance maneuvers to improve survivability. The Kratos LCASD design will meet, or in certain cases significantly exceed, the following stated Air Force goals for the program:


    • UAS Acquisition Cost: $3 million or less for the first unit up to 99 units, and $2 million or less for 100-or-greater unit quantity purchases.
    • 1,500 nautical mile mission radius with a 500 lb. payload.
    • Capable of Mach 0.9 Dash.
    • Maximum G load limits, maneuver rates, and subsystem environmental suitability.
    • Internal weapons capability; sized to carry and deliver at least two GBU-39 small diameter bombs.
    • Runway Independent Take-off and Landing capability.
    • Emphasis on the use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) materials, sub-systems, manufacturing processes, and open mission system architecture concepts.
    • Tactical consideration of the vehicle shape, elimination of gaps and mismatches, and aero-structural inlet integration.
    If you're thinking that this is a lot to ask from a program that will be co-funded by the contractor and will cost about one third of a single F-35, you're not alone. But Kratos will likely be able to evolve one of their target drone designs, like the BQM-167i, to suit these requirements, potentially saving millions in development costs.

    [​IMG]

    These systems are already capable of being launched and recovered without a runway. Although the required mission radius for the LCASD program is exceedingly large, equating to a whopping 3,000-mile range while carrying a 500 lb. payload, it will also have to be able to maneuver hard to avoid threats, so this thing will have to carry a lot of fuel and be rigid enough to handle some decent g-loads.

    Although the requirements seem to state that this vehicle would be capable of counter-air and SEAD missions, it's unclear if any of these missions will be demonstrated, especially considering the shallow funding involved. But Kratos has already demonstrated some pretty cool capabilities with its drones, including collaborative teaming and tethered operations with a manned attack aircraft.

    ...

    You can read the rest here. It's a huge article, but well worth the look into - http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...e-turned-low-cost-unmanned-combat-air-vehicle
     
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  2. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Its smart that we are shifting the development costs to Kratos, if the government was paying everything they would get milked to dry.

    "The LCASD system KUSD will provide a configurable design for multiple variants, anticipated to perform various missions that could require Nap-of-The-Earth (NOE) Flight, Cruising at High Altitudes, Defensive Counter Air (DCA) Maneuvers, Offensive Counter Air (OCA) Maneuvers, the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and the Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD). Additionally, the System will also incorporate performance capability including extreme agility for missile avoidance maneuvers to improve survivability."

    The requirements are pretty big. Which target drones do we currently have that can carry the large payloads that will yield results for the above requirements? I can see the DEAD role being fulfilled with a suicide drone, SEAD can be fulfilled with jammers to some extent. OCA again with a suicide drone if you are trying to knockout aircraft on the ground, maybe you could mount a sidewinder on one but I doubt that would be worth the money or effort.
     
  3. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    :D

    [​IMG]

    Actually, the BQM-167 already fits the requirements:

    [​IMG]

    The BQM-167A, manufactured by Composite Engineering Inc., is constructed of carbon fiber and epoxy-based materials. Composite materials allow significant increases in performance and endurance compared to previous targets, which were built mainly of aluminum. The BQM-167A is capable of speeds from 230 to 600 knots true airspeed at sea level with a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach. The drone can achieve flight altitudes from 50 feet above ground level to 50,000 feet mean sea level. Maneuvers include G-turns up to 9G's, and other aerial acrobatic turns.

    The drone is land-launched using a rocket assisted takeoff and launched from a rail system. The drone can be recovered by a parachute recovery system either from land or water. Recovered targets are repaired, tested and reused. The BQM-167A can carry a full range of current Air Force subscale target payloads which include a scoring system, infrared and radar enhancements, electronic attack pods and a chaff/flare dispenser set.

    General Characteristics
    Primary function:
    Aerial target
    Prime Contractor: Composite Engineering Inc.
    Power plant: 1 MicroTurbo Tri 60-5+
    Wingspan: 11 feet (3.4 meters)
    Length: 20 feet (6.1 meters)
    Height: 4 feet (1.2 meters)
    Weight: 690 lbs empty, 2,200 lbs max (313,998 kilograms)
    Thrust: 1,000 lbs (453.6 kilograms)
    Speed: 0.92 Mach
    Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
    Range: Not available
    Cost: $570,000
    Initial operating capability: 2008
    Inventory: Active force, 37
     
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