Northrop Grumman releases new future UAV concept art

by Gareth Jennings

The latest concept art for Model 437, the unmanned version of the Model 401, shows a sleeker design than a previous rendering released in late 2021. (Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman has released new concept art of a future unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which shows a sleeker design to that previously shown in late 2021.

The artist's rendering, released to Janes on 5 May, shows an unmanned version of the Model 401 manned experimental prototype developed by Northrop Grumman subsidiary, Scaled Composites.

Although the latest concept art shares the same scale and overall dimensions of the manned Model 401 on which it is based, it differs from an earlier concept drawing of the unmanned Model 437 version released by Northrop Grumman in September 2021. This latest rendering reveals a sleeker and more aerodynamic design of the frontal fuselage and swept back wings, suggesting that speed is to be prioritised as a performance characteristic of the new vehicle.

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USSOCOM progresses Maritime Precision Engagement-Munition programme

by Andrew White

Switchblade 600 is part of AeroVironment's emerging family of tactical loitering missile systems. (AeroVironment)

US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is preparing to conduct development tests with the Altius 700 airframe as part of the Maritime Precision Engagement-Munition (MPE-M) programme, officials have confirmed.

Addressing delegates at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) on 17 May, representatives from the Program Executive Office (PEO) of Special Operations Forces (SOF) Warrior said the Area-I Altius 700 – a new 30 lb kinetic payload solution – would support Block 1 of the MPE-M programme.

The news follows the completion of software and integration risk reduction activities for the Altius 600 payload for MPE-M.

Block 1 of the MPE-M programme includes integrating a .50 cal remote weapon station. However, AeroVironment is also supporting MPE-M test and evaluation with a variant of its Switchblade 600 loitering missile system, following a USD26 million contract awarded in April 2021.

AeroVironment's vice-president for tactical missile systems, Brett Hush, told Janes

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Gilmour develops engine to increase defence payload capacity of Eris rocket

by Oishee Majumdar

The test-firing of ‘Phoenix' liquid rocket engine by Gilmour Space. Phoenix will power the third stage of Gilmour's Eris rocket, which intends to carry military and commercial payloads to LEO towards the end of 2022. (Gilmour Space Technologies)

Australian rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has developed a liquid rocket engine called ‘Phoenix' that will power “the third and final stage” of its Eris rocket to orbit, a spokesperson for the company has told Janes.

Phoenix is a regeneratively cooled, 3D-printed liquid rocket engine that “results in a more capable rocket” because it will enable the delivery of more defence and commercial payloads to space, the spokesperson added.

This includes a new surveillance satellite that Gilmour Space is developing for the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) that will be launched in one of the Eris rockets in 2023, the spokesperson noted.

Eris Block 1 comprises a series of rockets that will be partly powered by Phoenix, the spokesperson informed Janes. While the first rocket is scheduled to be launched towards the end of 2022, Gilmour Space intends to launch “two or three” more Eris Block 1 rockets in 2023.

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WingXpand begins trials of its expandable wing UAV

by Akshara Parakala

WingXpand UAV in flight with extended wings and conventional tail. (WingXpand)

A new WingXpand unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is to be unveiled at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, WingXpand told Janes on 11 May ahead of the event.

The WingXpand UAV is a new type of fixed-wing platform with a patented expandable wing that is fully collapsible. Its original 2.13 m (7 ft) wingspan can be reduced by 60% in less than two minutes to fit the UAV into a backpack. It has a monocoque straight tapered wing integrated with a snap attach-and-locking mechanism for wing expansion, maintaining wing stability.

It uses an open architecture system with modular payload capability, to service civil and military aviation sectors in surveillance and reconnaissance roles. The UAV can support public safety and defence, survey and inspection, damage assessment, and logistics operations. It uses smart sensing recognition via Edge artificial intelligence (AI) payloads. The company said it has received two patents for the UAV's design.

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Northrop Grumman has released new concept art of a future unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which shows...

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