The MQ-9B is the right solution for mission needs across the Middle East and North Africa.

The advanced militaries of one of the world’s most strategically important regions need the most advanced equipment.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; border security; maritime domain awareness and many other essential missions depend on the same thing: real-time insight about what’s transpiring in key locations, right now. Although the challenges associated with maintaining real-time situational awareness aren’t getting any simpler, the good news is that the tools for handling them are improving all the time.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and its maritime-focused sibling, the SeaGuardian, are the right solutions for mission needs across the Middle East and North Africa. The aircrafts’ transformational endurance, growing suite of payloads and proven record of accomplishment mean they can accommodate all these roles and missions and many more.

Unmanned aerial systems have revolutionized military, security and other government operations because they do what human-crewed aircraft cannot: Spend hour after hour aloft – longer than conventional aircraft ever could – tracking specific targets, conducting wide-area surveillance or both. The MQ-9B builds on this foundation with more endurance than ever – around 40 hours – and better sensors. And that is just the start.

A growing library of payloads also enables the SkyGuardian to be more versatile than any of its predecessors. The aircraft can search for submerged submarines; serve as a communications relay; join a networked operation in support of multi-domain operations and more. A new self-protection pod means it can fly with the same abilities to detect anti-air threats and release countermeasures as a fourth-generation fighter.

The nature of operating areas in the Middle East and North Africa means this flexibility is especially valuable: an MQ-9B might take off “clean,” with no payload, and fly a mission one day overland supporting its government’s border security. The next, it might take off equipped with a surface search radar for a maritime domain awareness mission over the open ocean. Another day, the aircraft might be tasked with crossing back and forth over coastal areas or watching a strategic waterway.

Near-constant overwatch denies hostile powers the ability to position forces along border regions or in certain territorial waters without being seen from the moment their activity begins; it’s a concept called deterrence by detection. Those same hostile forces often can detect that they’re being observed, and their next actions can provide a powerful clue about their intentions.

Irregular maritime forces in the Persian Gulf, for example, attempted to shoot down an earlier-model MQ-9 Reaper operated by the U.S. Air Force as it monitored them preparing to harass shipping in the area. The attack didn’t succeed, and it also provided allied governments in the region an urgent clue as to what malign activities were underway, in what location, and involving which forces.

Even if hostile actors do succeed in destroying a UAS, doing so cannot harm the aircraft’s pilot and sensor operator, who can be stationed hundreds or thousands of miles away.

These and other qualities are what have prompted a growing number of nations to select the MQ-9B as their new flagship large UAS, including Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Such military sales agreements serve to not only help expand the capabilities of allies but also contribute to mutual security interests.

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Navy conducts live test of resupply drones for ashore, at-sea missions

The Navy’s test squadron has tested out two different unmanned aerial resupply drones, both under consideration for future acquisition programs, the service announced today.

Tests of the Tactical Resupply UAS, also called TRV-150, and the Blue Water logistics UAS, occurred Oct. 27 in St. Inigoes, Md. The former is under development by the UK-based Malloy Aeronautics and a Maryland-based firm called SURVICE Engineering Company. The latter is made by PteroDynamics, a California-based developer and manufacturer focused on vertical-take-off-and-landing aircraft.

From the Navy’s perspective, TRUAS is viewed as a likely candidate for missions ashore with the Marine Corps, given its shorter range but heavier 150-pound lift. Blue Water, as the name implies, could be used for resupply at sea where its small footprint makes it suitable to be stored onboard ships.

The Navy and Marine Corps have sought unmanned resupply capabilities for years, but the acquisition process and exquisite requirements have slowed the process of bringing the technology to the fleet.

The service’s Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems program office and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (UX-24) performed multiple resupply missions with both drones, the statement continued. The missions were straightforward, with each drone being tasked to fly autonomously from one point to another, and in some cases wait for a sailor or Marine to give it further commands.

The Marines plan to continue testing TRV-150 next summer, while the Navy is using Other Transaction Authorities to prototype BWUAS.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and edge computing are key enablers for distributed, multi-domain operations.

The Navy and Marine Corps have publicly toyed with the concept of unmanned aerial resupply in recent years, hosting a variety of demonstrations and exercises to test out how large a payload could be lifted and what role autonomous technologies could play in reducing danger to individual personnel. For example, the Marine Corps in 2019 issued a special challenge to industry to identify worthwhile drones capable of transporting 60 pounds of cargo.

While there’s no shortage of commercial drones on the market, the Navy’s search for acceptable technologies is challenged by specific requirements that commercial UAS manufacturers don’t necessarily consider, such as space restraints onboard a warship or the need to operate in severe weather conditions.

Another limiting factor is the Pentagon’s often bemoaned acquisition system, which the Navy’s statement calls out when referencing its use of OTAs.

The service’s acquisition entities in conjunction with industry partners “used Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs) to quickly execute TRUAS. OTAs give the program the ability to make ongoing changes to the prototype based on the users’ input significantly reducing development time compared to a traditional acquisition program.”

The need for these technologies to be brought to the wider fleet may be increased in the upcoming years as the service prepares for a fight in the pacific where resupply by drone may be one of very few options available to forces on the ground.

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Time To Wedge The E-7A Wedgetail Into The US Air Force Fleet

The success of American joint forces in a potential conflict with China or Russia will depend in part on whether the US Air Force can continue to provide warfighters with advanced airborne early warning and control capabilities. Yet the Air Force’s ability to do so is increasingly in question.

Agile, open networks will let the DoD make command decisions faster, distribute its forces, and operate at a standoff distance to counter new weaponry like hypersonic missiles. 

The best short-term solution appears to be the E-7A Wedgetail. The primary reason is that the E-7A is a known and proven aircraft (including engines and avionics) that also hosts an advanced airborne early warning and control suite.

The Royal Australian Air Force flies the E-7A, and the aircraft is widely viewed as the most capable airborne early warning and control aircraft flying today. The Royal Australian Air Force flies six E-7As, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force has an order for up to five aircraft. The E-7A is based on a standard Boeing 737-700 airframe, which is currently in production and is already flown by the U.S. Air Force and multiple civilian airlines.

That creates a robust and healthy aircraft supply chain that would reduce maintenance and supply costs for the US Air Force and increase readiness. With the Air Force reporting a 40 percent availability rate for the E-3, these are no small incentives. The E-7A also has extended ranges with in-flight refueling and can fly at least 5,000 feet higher than the E-3.

In addition to an improved airframe, the E-7A also features a highly capable sensor suite built around the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array L-band radar system. This system gives the E-7A better all-weather performance and long-range detection of small targets relative to the sensors on the E-3. Its radar system can also rapidly revisit and focus on specific targets while still maintaining full 360-degree surveillance capability.

These capabilities allow the E-7A to dramatically reduce track-update times compared to the E-3 as well as to provide much more usable data to weapons employment platforms (aircraft, ships, and land-based). The E-7A can simultaneously perform air and maritime surface searches on hundreds of targets at ranges of up to 250 nautical miles and can control a significant number of aircraft. It also has an integrated electronic support measures suite and robust modernized communication suites and datalink management systems, including the option to upgrade to the Link 22 beyond line-of-sight, high-frequency datalink.

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The US Air Force Just Inched Closer To Buying Boeing’s E-7A Wedgetail

The US Air Force plans to award Boeing a contract for analysis of the E-7A Wedgetail as it considers buying the aircraft to replace its aging E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) planes.

According to an Oct. 19 notice posted on SAM.gov, the service will “award a sole source Time and Materials (T&M) contract to The Boeing Company to perform studies, analyses, and activities required to ascertain the current E-7A baseline configuration and determine what additional work the government might need to accomplish meeting USAF configuration standards and mandates.”

Specifically, the Air Force wants more information on the Wedgetail’s current level of cyber security, open mission systems, spectrum allocation, as well as its ability to use the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System communications system and M-Code GPS used by the military, the solicitation stated.

The sole-source award to Boeing for the study may signal that the Air Force will not pursue a competitive effort to replace the E-3, a decision that could raise the ire of lawmakers and companies like Saab that have created their own airborne early warning aircraft. The service did not state how much money it planned to award Boeing for the study.

The call for additional analysis comes a month after the two top Air Force leaders acknowledged the service is considering procuring the Wedgetail — suggesting that a proposed buy is potentially gaining momentum as the service finalizes its fiscal year 2023 budget submission.

The E-7 Wedgetail — a derivative of the Boeing 737 — entered service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2009. In 2019, the UK’s Royal Air Force announced its decision to purchase the aircraft, although earlier this year it reduced its planned order from five to three aircraft.

The US Air Force eventually wants to field a more advanced AMTI capability, potentially even using space-based assets. However, Wedgetail could bridge the gap until that technology matures, Brown said, providing an option for the service to secure a modern AMTI platform. much faster than if we were to start a new start from scratch.

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First Live Hypersonic Missile Rounds To Be Delivered to Army Unit Next Year

The US Army will deliver its first operational rounds of its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon to a unit “in about a year from now” and remains on track to meet its deadline to deliver an offensive unit by the end of fiscal 2023, according to the three-star overseeing the effort.

“We’ll start delivering the first of their operational rounds to that unit in FY23, so about a year from now,” Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition, who also oversees the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office,  at the annual AUSA conference earlier this week.

“They’ll get all of their operational rounds by the end of FY23 and we’ll have met the guidance we were given, which was to have an operational offensive unit by the end of FY23,” he said.

The news that the unit will receive its first live rounds follows the delivery of its first equipment for the ground-base hypersonic missile earlier in the month — including launchers, battery operations center and modified trucks and trailer. Soldiers will now train on that hardware in preparation for the delivery of the missiles and future flight tests.

“We give them their equipment first [and] let them train,”  Thurgood said. “They’ll be part of our flight test program and we have multiple flight tests in front of us, and they will actually shoot those flight tests. And so the training they get initially then will be put into our test program.”

There are three flight tests planned in fiscal 2022 with “very specific objectives” but would not go into further detail. The RCCTO is responsible for outfitting the first battery, but Program Executive Office Missiles and Space — the transition partner — will outfit batteries two and three in fiscal 25 and 27, respectively.

The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon is part of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires effort, a critical modernization priority as it pivots to the dispersed Indo-Pacific. the LRHW can fly further than 2,775 km, or about 1,725 miles. 

Last week, the service outfitted its I Corps’ 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Lockheed Martin developed a new facility for the LRHW in Cortland, Ala. That facility will be able to produce 24 rounds annually once at full-production capacity, according to Eric Scherff, the company’s hypersonic strike vice president.

The Army has been working with the Navy on hypersonic weapons. The Army is developing the glide body, while the Navy is creating the missile stack.

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Rheinmetall’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle concept down

The In US Army announced a modernisation plan and launched the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) programme to replace nearly 3,800 M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. In October that year, the army’s decision-making board redesignated the programme as the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programme and decided to increase the number of vehicle programmes added to the NGCV.

American Rheinmetall Vehicles (ARV) has formed a team to execute Phase 2 the project’s requirements maturation effort using digital engineering and model-based system engineering tools. The group, Team Lynx, is made up of ARV, Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies, Textron Systems and Allison Transmissions.

Michigan-based director for business development strategy for ARV Mike Milner tells Global Defence Technology: “The Bradley IFV has been in the field now for close to 40 years and it has served very admirably. It’s not being replaced because it’s a poor vehicle, but it’s reached its age and maturity limits where it cannot be modernised any longer.”

Milner adds: “The new vehicle replacing the Bradley can continue to grow into the future and maintain overmatch against our near-peer adversaries and for the next 30-40 years.”

Because of the importance of replacing an obsolete vehicle, the previous failed attempts and because the OMFV is intended to serve a vital part in the US Army’s Armoured Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT), the programme has received a lot of attention.

The contract awarded to the five companies is worth approximately a total of $300m, with Rheinmetall receiving $54m. In this phase, the contractors will simultaneously develop a digital model that is tested through physics- and operationally-based models to determine what capabilities add value to the project.

“The army will then run those models through the operational and use the outcomes to determine what requirements and capabilities provide the most bang for the buck,” says Milner.

Then the requirements are refined, updated, and sent back to the contractors where they can make further adjustments and updates. In the next step, the data is fed back to the physics- and operational modelling to determine whether the requirements increased capability. This process is carried out twice. The phase began at the end of July and is expected to be delivered within 15 months.

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Northrop’s masterpiece: The F-23A Black Widow II

The F-23A would have been longer and more smoothly molded than the prototype technology demonstrator that came before it. The YF-23’s big trapezoidal nacelles would become more blended into the F-23’s fuselage and its engines would be spaced closer together at slightly toed-in angles. Without the requirements for thrust reversers, which was baked into the YF-23 design but the hardware was never fitted, a more efficient low-observable flap-nozzle could be installed and the flat exhaust troughs would get updated heat-resistant coverings.

The F-23’s nose would be redefined to accommodate a powerful active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and its intakes would be drastically changed. Gone was the innovative but high-risk ‘gauzing panels’ that worked to separate turbulent boundary layer air from entering serpentine intakes. In their place was a diverterless supersonic intake-like configuration similar to what is seen today on the F-35 and J-20, among other aircraft. The intake leading edges would be serrated as well, giving them a menacing look and enhanced low-observable properties. 

The F-23’s boat- l would also be simplified, with a simpler overall ‘w’ shape, with the additional indentures found on its YF-23 predecessor deleted. The F-23A’s weapons capacity was expanded and offered more relevant weapons storage than the single bay found on the YF-23. The bays were arranged to carry a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders in the front bay and four to five AIM-120s in the rear bay. Air-to-ground munitions could also be carried, including much larger weapons than what the F-22 is capable of carrying today due to the greater depth of the F-23’s rear weapons bay. 

The refueling port would be moved over from the aircraft’s centerline to its left over-wing shoulder position, offering pilots a similar tanking ‘picture’ as the F-15 Eagle. The landing gear would also be strengthened and the ventral barrel section would feature a less acute and more blended mold-line.

Beyond being more refined, the F-23A is a narrower and somewhat elongated design iteration of the YF-23, which would have likely helped improved its already blistering kinematic performance and excellent radar cross-section metrics. But still, as you can see in the scaled illustrations below, the F-23 was to be a beast of a fighter that was overall larger than the F-22 Raptor—the aircraft that became the end result of ATF competition. 

Even more eye-opening is the F-23 when viewed comparatively to its unofficial namesake, the P-61 Black Widow. Northrop’s legendary night fighter-interceptor of World War II isn’t considered small by any means, quite the opposite, but it’s absolutely dwarfed by the F-23. 

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The F-15EX’s success, Delivering Today For Tomorrow’s Missions

Boeing’s lead in digital engineering has underpinned the F-15EX’s success, schedule and low price, and will provide rapid capability growth through open architecture and agile software development.

Innovation has been part of the Boeing F-15 program’s DNA for nearly 50 years. Today, the latest variant of the undefeated fighter – the F-15EX – is raising the bar once again, with the aircraft designed to evolve digitally and stay ahead of threats for several decades to come.

In bringing the F-15EX to life, Boeing built on the successes of new franchise programs like the T-7A Red Hawk trainer and MQ-25 Stingray unmanned refueling aircraft – where hundreds of digital aircraft flew thousands of hours before any metal was cut or any real-life test flights occurred. This digital approach enables not only reduced fabrication time, but also streamlined field maintenance.

Additionally, F-15EX is built with a high-speed digital backbone and open mission systems architecture powered by a new processor, ensuring the warfighter can benefit from the rapid insertion of new technologies including next-generation sensors. Designing the F-15EX to be digitally enabled gives warfighters the ability to use Boeing software and third-party software applications to deliver ever-increasing capabilities and keep pace with the ever-changing threat environment.

The F-15EX was designed to evolve from day one. Today, the aircraft brings fly-by-wire flight controls, a new electronic warfare system, an all-glass digital cockpit and the latest mission systems and software capabilities, as well as the ability to carry advanced hypersonic weapons. While its future capabilities are not yet specifically defined, the F-15EX can leverage its unique open architecture to rapidly and affordably incorporate technological advancements such as hypersonic weapons and manned-unmanned teaming.

Whatever new technologies the F-15EX might incorporate, it is clear that these aircraft will not simply replace older F-15s, but will give the Air Force significant new capabilities, complementary of the entire fleet.

Another key benefit of designing, integrating and testing in a digital environment is that issues can be identified long before they arise in operating and sustainment environments, which ultimately delivers greater value throughout the life cycle of the product.

In fact, the development and testing of fully digital models allows Boeing to integrate new components faster by doing virtual testing. When using this approach on the F-15EX nose barrel, after the initial learning curve, it led to a nearly 70% reduction in touch labor in the workshop.

With less investment required for logistics, sustainment, training and development of weapons integration, the U.S. Air Force has estimated that refreshing the F-15 fleet with F-15EX aircraft will save billions of dollars compared to replacing them with other aircraft, and they will transition into service in months as opposed to years. It is an affordable and efficient way to refresh the U.S. Air Force’s fighter capacity and improve its capability for air superiority and homeland defense.

Boeing’s lead in digital engineering has underpinned the F-15EX’s success, schedule and low price, and will provide rapid capability growth through open architecture and agile software development. The F-15EX aircraft is a capable, affordable and ready to serve platform for the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. The first two jets were delivered to Eglin Air Force Base earlier this year, and production continues as Boeing remains committed to delivering a modern F-15 fleet that will offer the flexibility and interoperability needed for tomorrow’s missions.

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MaxxPro MRAP Armoured Fighting Vehicle

Navistar came up with a number of mission variants for the MaxxPro vehicle to feature a range of armouring levels and suit the mission requirements. The variants in the MaxxPro series include MaxxPro, MaxxPro Plus, MaxxPro ambulance, MaxxPro MEAP, MaxxPro Air Force and MaxxPro Dash.

The MaxxPro MRAP expedient armour programme (MEAP) offers increased protection among the MRAP vehicles. MaxxPro Plus offers increased explosively forged projectiles (EFP) protection. MaxxPro Dash was designed to be a more mobile and lighter variant equipped with a certain degree of protection.

MaxxPro Dash offers a smaller turning radius and a higher torque-to-weight ratio, which thereby increases the mobility of the vehicle. As it is designed to navigate through rough terrains, MaxxPro Dash is less prone to roll-over problems and is therefore suitable for deployment in Afghanistan.

https://youtu.be/ok53oQEIMqw

The Wrecker MRAP accommodates a crew of two to three men and carries out support missions such as retrieving damaged or mission-disabled vehicles.

All variants of the MaxxPro vehicle have increased supportability and maintainability, and feature a high degree of part commonality.

The vehicle can use standardised and readily available parts to ensure rapid repair and maintenance. The armoured body of the vehicle is bolted together and not welded, which facilitates on-field repairs.

“MaxxPro can survive a 7kg (15lb) land mine blast without any injuries.”

MRAP vehicles are classified into two categories – Category I or Category II – based on their usage and the number of passengers that can be accommodated. MaxxPro Dash is a lighter, more mobile version of the Category I or mine-resistant utility vehicle (MRUV) and offers increased commonality among parts for easier integration. It is a smaller and lighter-weight vehicle among the variants and maintains the same survivability as the other variants.

The mobility of the vehicle has been improved through smaller turning radius and a higher torque-to-weight ratio. Additional uparmouring can also be accommodated in this variant. Supportability and maintainability of the vehicle is maximised.

MaxxPro Plus is an upgraded MaxxPro vehicle featuring performance and survivability enhancements, increased payload and additional engine performance. MaxxPro Wrecker, MaxxPro Cargo and MaxxPro Tractor are built on Navistar’s WorkStar platform and have a MaxxPro Dash cab.

The MaxxPro variants can accommodate two crew members, four to six passengers and a gunner.

MaxxPro uses the MaxxForce D8.7I6 engine while MaxxPro Plus and MaxxPro Dash use model D9.3I6 of the MaxxForce D family of engines. The engines are manufactured by Navistar International Corporation under the brand MaxxForce.

“MaxxPro Plus and Dash can accept add-on armour as per the mission requirements.”

The D9.3I6 is a turbo inter-cooled, direct electronic injection, four-stroke engine. Built on I-6 architecture, it offers a performance similar to larger, heavy-duty engines and at the same time provides the economy of a medium-duty diesel engine.

The engine uses a low-pressure fuel supply pump. It has a generation-two electro hydraulic fuel system, which includes an under-valve-cover oil manifold, fuel injectors and a high-pressure oil pump.

Additional engine strength is provided by a crankcase and bearing ladder cap, whereas the single-piece steel pistons and six head bolts per cylinder secure a longer engine life.

The MaxxPro is capable of and ready for an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and remote weapon system or station (RWS). The vehicle is equipped with ballistic protection – armour and glass protection required to meet the mission needs. It can also withstand ballistic arms fire, nuclear, biological and chemical environments.

The V–shaped hull design protects the vehicle against mines or IED blasts. MaxxPro Plus and Dash have been designed to accept add-on armour as per the mission requirements.

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Kaman unveils medium-lift UAV to resupply distributed Marine Corps forces

Kaman is unveiling this week a medium-lift unmanned quadcopter meant to solve the biggest challenge to the Marine Corps’ expeditionary advanced base operations concept: resupplying small units of Marines scattered around island chains.

Kaman’s KARGO unmanned aerial vehicle has been designed from scratch over the past nine months to meet the Marines’ needs for an Unmanned Logistics Systems-Air (ULS-A) medium-lift vehicle for the distributed laydown the Marines expect will be the hallmark of their operations in the future in places like the Pacific, the Baltic Sea or other contested areas.

the vehicle will be able to balance range and payload capacity — up to 500 nautical miles and as much as 1,000 pounds of cargo — to help the Marine Corps move “beans, bullets and Band-Aids,” or even potable water, fuel and spare parts, to small units in remote locations.

Kaman is the company behind the K-MAX heavy-lift UAV that saw operations in Afghanistan in 2011.

The Marine Corps was very progressive, as they’ve always been, leveraging technologies. It was in theater, did a whole bunch of missions, tons of hours, basically taking young Marines off the road  to move supplies around theater in the air instead of in ground convoys susceptible to being shot at or hitting roadside bombs, Walsh said.

“After that war ended, the Marine Corps mothballed both those helicopters because nothing really was going on, and then here we are 10 years later with this emerging threat in the Pacific Rim,” he said, adding that the threat of conflict with China creates urgency for the Marine Corps and the joint force to figure out how it would sustain forces in a fight across such a large swath of sea space.

Kaman has already completed demonstrations with a half-scale model that focused on the drivetrain and air vehicle design, and Dasmalchi said several lessons came out of that that informed alterations to the full-scale vehicle. The autonomy package the UAV uses, under developent by Near Earth Autonomy, is being tested separately on surrogate aircraft now. Command-and-control systems for various delivery options, such as conformal pods, sling loads or even air drops are being developed by DreamHammer.

the full-sized demonstrator will be going through ground-based testing. Flight tests of that air vehicle will begin early next year, and after an integration effort with the autonomy package and mission systems, a complete system in-air test should occur by late 2022.

Everything about the design is tailored to those principles: all four rotors are interchangeable, and all the blades within the rotors are interchangeable, for example, reducing the need to keep many spare parts on hand. The engine is fuel-efficient, and available today — Walsh said the hope is to eventually upgrade to an electric or hybrid power system to reduce or eliminate its dependence on jet fuel, but that technology isn’t mature enough yet. A gas-powered engine lets Kaman field this product in a year or two without waiting on any major technology development.

Instead, Kaman will bring the model to the AUSA exposition with Army leadership in October, in the hopes of attracting other potential customers, including the Navy and MSC, the Coast Guard and foreign militaries.

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