The army tests the armament of its light tactical vehicles with drones

The US military is experimenting with the launch of the small Area-I, air-launch, tube-integrated unmanned system drone, or ALTIUS, from an ultralight tactical vehicle. The drone has already been launched from the army MQ-1C unmanned aircraft and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, as well as an Air Force XQ-58A Valkyrie stealth unmanned aircraft, but this is the first time we’ve seen it used by the U.S. military in this type of on-vehicle capability.

A photo posted to Twitter today by the Future Lift Vertical cross-sectional team shows the familiar shape of a brightly painted ALTIUS launched from one of two Common Launch Tubes (CLTs) attached to what appears to be a DAGOR ultralight tactical vehicle. According to Area-I, who was acquired by Anduril Industries in April, the ALTIUS-600 also been launched in the past C-130, AC-130J, P-3 and civilian aircraft, as well as undisclosed ground vehicles, although few details are available.

An image provided by Area-I shows a twin-tube launcher assembly mounted on a commercial-style pickup truck that looks a lot like the one the military is currently testing on the DAGOR.

The ALTIUS-600 model weighs between 20 and 27 pounds, depending on payload, has a range of 276 miles and endurance of at least four hours. In addition to the CLT, the drone can be launched from the Integrated Pneumatic Launch System (PILS) and the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons Platform (RIwP). A wide variety of payloads can be carried, covering intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and electromagnetic intelligence (SIGINT) missions, as well as warheads for offensive missions, and even a counter-drone weapon, the MoRFIUS, or UAS Suppressor integrated into mobile radio frequencies, developed by Lockheed Martin. While not explicitly announced by the manufacturer, it’s also clear that electronic warfare would be a key mission for the drone, using an alternate jammer payload, for example.

The exact background to this Army experiment is unclear, but the Army’s tweet indicates that it was conducted as part of Exercise Edge 21. Edge 21, which stands for Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise, is currently taking place at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. This is a series of aviation-focused maneuvers aimed at paving the way for the new rotorcraft planned under the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. The exercise also includes a ‘penetration phase [that] focuses on neutralizing long-range systems and challenging enemy maneuver forces from operational and strategic distances ”, according to Defense News.

Interestingly, the DAGOR, or Deployable Advanced Ground Off-road, produced by the Government and Defense division of Polaris, was a losing entry in the Infantry Vehicle Program (ISV), which sought to provide the army a new lightweight model. , all-terrain troop transporter. However, the 82nd Airborne Division had at least some DAGOR from 2017 and one of these vehicles from this batch, or another previous evaluation of the type, could have been used in this ALTIUS test. The original tweet tagged the official 82nd Airborne Twitter account and the division is known to participate in Edge 21.

In the past, we have suggested that the ALTIUS-600 could be a potential candidate for the Army’s new family of general-purpose air-launch unmanned aircraft, which you can read more about here. Now it looks like he could find a role in a vehicle-launched form as well.

This could bring the military closer to commissioning the type of autonomous drone swarm that is being investigated as part of the inter-service service. Low cost cruise missile (LCCM) research and development program. So far, this has focused on the Raytheon Coyote Block 3 version, with a launcher, jam-resistant data link, and software package that enables collaborative operations. In a test late last year, a swarm of LCCM vehicles was launched, then ‘reacted dynamically to a priority threat environment while proceeding with target identification and allocation. in conjunction with synchronized attacks ”.

By employing large numbers of small, vehicle-launched drones, the military could expand its capabilities for missions such as ISR and electronic warfare, as well as launch “suicide drones” to attack targets in networked autonomous swarms. . So far, these types of proposals have mostly focused on air-launched drones, as part of the Air Launch Effects (ALE) effort, but there is no reason why the same types of collaborative technologies , and even the drone hardware, can also be adapted to the ground. launch. After all, the ALTIUS-600 is designed for both land and air launch, and Area-I himself has spoken of turning this particular drone into blazing ammunition.

Meanwhile, adding CLTs to a DAGOR, or similar vehicle, is interesting in itself as it offers capabilities that go beyond launching drones like the ALTIUS. CLT is becoming an increasingly popular method of launching small payloads in the US military and can accommodate other stores, such as Raytheon. AGM-176 Griffin missile. A guided missile of this type could have an application to “neutralize long-range systems and challenge enemy maneuver forces,” as described in the game plan for Edge 21. However, we still don’t know what type of payload. was used by the ALTIUS-600 in these maneuvers and whether they were used for offensive purposes or not.

Whether or not the military is interested in this particular tactical vehicle and light drone configuration, the combination of the DAGOR and the ALTIUS-600 indicates very realistic future capabilities. Additionally, the use of an air-dropable and potentially internally transportable ultralight vehicle to transport this type of drone could give smaller units entirely new capabilities, both in terms of ISR and performance. extended range situational awareness and strike.

This would be of interest not only to the military, but also potentially to the Marines and the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), both of whom are increasingly interested in the capabilities offered by ammunition to hang around. In this way, a small team of infantry could potentially deploy precision guided stroll ammunition to provide an effect disproportionate to their size, allowing attacks against lightly armored targets or even heavier armored vehicles, at distances of security. In urban environments in particular, having access to vehicle-launched drones for permanent surveillance would also be a huge advantage, for regular operations and special forces work alike.

Without a doubt, the appearance of the ALTIUS-600 on the DAGOR vehicle is an interesting development for the army and for drone warfare. We will be sure to follow developments and report back when new details emerge.

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