Navy League 2024: Unmanned surface and aerial vehicles move from experimental to operational considerations

by Michael Fabey

The V-Bat UAV, shown here during testing, is becoming the UAV of choice for US forces. (US Navy)

Military planners and operators are beginning to consider unmanned surface and aerial vehicles in a more operational light given recent successes in experiments and in the battlespace, according to defence analysts.

One case in point is the Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vessel (LRUSV) the US Marine Corps (USMC) plans to use as a semi-autonomous vessel for extended travel and transporting loitering munitions that accurately track and destroy targets on sea or land and serve as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform, according to Bryan Clark, senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at Hudson Institute.

“Marines are looking at that for unmanned logistics,” Clark told Janes on 31 March in an interview in advance of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space global maritime exposition held from 8 to 10 April in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They want to move materiel between the islands for the MLRs [Marine Littoral Regiments],” Clark said.


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DARPA selects Aurora Flight Sciences for Phase 1B of SPRINT programme

by Zach Rosenberg

Aurora Flight Sciences' proposal for DARPA's SPRINT contest. (Aurora Flight Sciences)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to move into the next phase of the Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) programme, the company announced on 20 May, with a USD25 million contract modification.

The SPRINT programme is intended to result in an experimental vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft capable of reaching jet-like speeds.

SPRINT's Phase 1B is meant to advance designs from conceptual design review through preliminary design review, in which designers detail the component parts and specifications needed for the design.

DARPA selected four companies for Phase 1A of the programme in November 2023: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bell Helicopters, Northrop Grumman, and Piasecki Aircraft Corporation. The agency declined to specify whether additional competitors besides Aurora Flight Sciences were selected for Phase 1B.

SPRINT seeks designs capable of lifting off vertically from unprepared surfaces and cruising between 400 and 450 kt at up to 30,000 ft altitude with a 5,000 lb payload, according to the programme's initial solicitation. The programme was tendered in co-operation with US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).


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Singapore attributes F-16 crash to ‘rare' gyroscopic failure

by Akhil Kadidal & Raghuraman C S

The crash of an RSAF F-16 on 8 May shortly after take-off has been attributed to an unusual gyroscopic malfunction. While the variant involved in the crash is not known, it is likely the single-seat ‘C' version (as depicted in this 2016 file photo) was involved. (Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Lockheed Martin F-16, which crashed on 8 May, was found to have suffered simultaneous gyroscopic failure soon after take-off, according to the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

MINDEF said in a statement that the F-16 crashed on 8 May soon after it took off from Tengah Air Base. A joint RSAF-Lockheed Martin investigation has determined that the aircraft's pitch rate gyroscopes are to blame, MINDEF added on 18 May.

“The flight data recorder recovered from the crashed F-16 showed that its pitch rate gyroscopes gave erroneous inputs to the flight control computer (FLCC),” MINDEF said. “This led to the pilot being unable to control the plane at take-off.”


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Poland completes receipt of Turkish UAVs

by Gareth Jennings

Poland now has all 24 of the TB2 UAVs it ordered from Türkiye, operating them across four systems based at the 12th Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Base at Mirosławiec. (Polish MND)

Poland has received the last of 24 Baykar Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Türkiye.

The Polish Armaments Agency (AA) announced the milestone on 16 May, saying that the last four unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), each comprising six UAVs, had been received into the 12th Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Base at Mirosławiec on the same day.

“The Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Defense, Paweł Bejda, together with representatives of the Polish Armed Forces, took part in the ceremony of completing the delivery of the last, fourth set of the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned reconnaissance and strike system,” the AA said.


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