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USSOCOM progresses Maritime Precision Engagement-Munition programme

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 on 17 May that an ‘evolution' of the Switchblade 600 was 10 months into a development programme with the US Naval Special Warfare Command, which would see it launched from surface vessels as part of MPE-M.

The MPE-M programme is to deploy “air-loitering munitions” from combatant craft with man-in-the-loop terminal guidance against land and maritime targets, particularly when US Navy fires support is not available, SOF Warrior officials said.

Comprising a launcher system and air-launched munition, MPE-M will also be networked to USSOCOM's Combatant Craft Forward Looking Infrared (CCFLIR2) solution that includes Teledyne FLIR's SeaFLIR 280-HD. Technical Solutions (a division of HII and formerly known as Alion Science and Technology) is the prime contractor for the programme.

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