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Are drones the total future of air warfare?

Khafee

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Valkyrie drone launches even smaller drone from inside payload bay

By: Valerie Insinna

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WASHINGTON — The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie drone successfully launched an even smaller unmanned aircraft from inside its internal weapons bay on March 26, the U.S. Air Force announced Monday.

During the Valkyrie’s sixth flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, it opened its payload bay doors during flight for the first time and released an ALTIUS-600, a small, tube-launched autonomous drone made by Area-I, a Georgia-based company that designs unmanned aerial systems.

The Valkyrie is an “attritable” drone, the word the military uses for an asset that can be reused but is cheap enough that a commander would expect and be comfortable with a certain amount of losses while in combat.

The Air Force is experimenting with using the Valkyrie as a communications node for the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, as well as assessing it as a potential Skyborg system that would be equipped with artificial intelligence and be able to fly autonomously alongside tactical aircraft.

ALTIUS-600 can be launched for a variety of missions, including electronic warfare, signals intelligence, counter-UAS, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and it can be outfitted to produce kinetic effects. It can weigh up to 27 pounds — including a 6-pound payload stored in its nose — and has an endurance of about four hours, according to Area-I.

Both Kratos and Area-I worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop software and fabricate a carriage that would allow the Valkyrie to release the ALTIUS-600, the lab said in a release.

Once the launch of the ALTIUS system was finished, the Valkyrie completed additional tests geared toward expanding the aircraft’s flight envelope, the lab said.

“In addition to this first [small UAS] separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights,” said Alyson Turri, the Air Force’s program manager for the demonstration.

Steve Fendley, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said the success of the ALTIUS release “adds an exclamation point to the 30-month development of the Valkyrie system by the Kratos and AFRL team, which resulted in a pre-production system with substantial operational capability, not simply a proof-of-concept flight demonstrator.”

The Army is also experimenting with the ALTIUS platform as part of its air-launched effects demonstrations, including last year’s Project Convergence demo, which saw the UAS deployed from an MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone.

Last week, Anduril Technologies announced plans to buy Area-I and operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary that would retain the Area-I brand.
 
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Two Saudi companies to produce Turkish drones

By: Burak Ege Bekdil

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The Karayel-SU on display at a trade show. (Staff)

ANKARA, Turkey — Two Saudi Arabian manufacturers have started co-producing a Turkish-made medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.

Intra Defense Technologies and Advanced Electronics Company will produce the Karayel-SU under license from the Vestel Savunma.

Vestel Savunma did not respond to a request for comment, but a company official told Defense News on condition of anonymity that AEC will provide electronics parts and Vestal will supply “essential, critical components of the aircraft.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed March 16 that “there was Saudi demand for Turkish armed drones,” without elaborating.

The Vestel official said that in addition to the co-production deal, Saudi Arabia is also negotiating for the off-the-shelf purchase of an unknown batch of Karayel-SU drones.

The deal dates back to the 2017 Dubai Air Show, where Saudi Arabia expressed interest in contracts for both the direct purchase and co-production of the drones, Turkish defense analyst Anil Sahin told Sputnik News.

Sahin said the co-production program involves building a batch of 40 Karayel-SU aircraft between 2021 and 2025. The Turkish drone will be reflagged as Haboob in Saudi Arabia.

When unloaded, the Karayel-SU can fly up to 20 hours at an altitude of 18,000 feet; or for eight hours with a 120-kilogram payload. It can fly at a speed of 60-80 knots at a ranger of up to 150 kilometers.

The drone features a 97-horsepower engine. It uses two rocket systems and is equipped with the smart micro munitions MAM-C and MAM-L. Those weapons are both produced by Turkey’s state-controlled missile-maker Roketsan.
 

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Chinese company Zhongtian Feilong unveils UAV ‘mothership'

08 April 2021
by Greg Murray & Gabriel Dominguez

Chinese company Zhongtian Feilong announced on 1 April that it successfully carried out a “technical verification” flight of a newly developed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is capable of deploying a number of smaller UAVs for use in different roles, including on reconnaissance and attack missions.

Referred to by the company as an “unmanned airborne swarm system”, the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV, which took to the skies on 20 March from an unspecified airport in China, is a twin-boom design employing a pusher propeller for forward flight and four rotors to enable VTOLs.

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A screenshot from a video released by Zhongtian Feilong on 1 April showing the firm’s newly developed ‘unmanned airborne swarm system’ releasing a smaller UAV while in flight. (Zhongtian Feilong)

The platform is fitted with a belly-mounted dispenser that turns it into a carrier of smaller unmanned airborne systems. As a result, this ‘mothership’ could, for instance, simultaneously deploy a loitering munition, a mini UAV with an electronic warfare (EW) payload, and another with advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, according to the company. It is unclear how many of these smaller systems the platform can carry but a company video of a launch demonstration appears to show four.

The ‘mothership’ enables smaller systems to be carried to a designated location before opening the cargo bay/dispenser for deployment. The company did not state whether airborne recovery of the mini UAVs is possible but this is unlikely to be the case judging by the size of the ‘mothership’.
 

ChicagoCubFan

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I believe the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict proved that UAVs are significantly important nowadays for any country's armed forces, however I do believe Anti-UAV technology will be rapidly developed at a fast rate as well.
 
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