Lockheed Martin has been granted $110 million to develop low-cost subsonic cruise missiles that can fly in ‘swarms.’
The program, dubbed Gray Wolf, aims to build and demonstrate new missiles to initially work with the F-16 aircraft, before eventually expanding to be compatible with several other fighter jets.
There will be four development phases, with the first expected to wrap up in late 2019.
Lockheed Martin has been granted $110 million to develop low-cost subsonic cruise missiles that can fly in ‘swarms.’ The first demonstrations will be conducted with from an F-16 aircraft. Eventually, it will work with several other fighter jets
PROJECT GRAY WOLF
Lockheed Martin received a five-year contract to develop ‘Gray Wolf’ missiles.
These aim to be low-cost, subsonic cruise missiles that can carry out swarming behaviour.
Eventually, they’ll work with the F-16 aircraft, as well as the F-35, F-15, F-18, B-1, B-2 and B-52.
According to Lockheed Martin, these missiles will also be able to operate efficiently in challenging environments.
Lockheed Martin announced today that it has received a five-year Phase 1 contract from the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to develop the Gray Wolf missile.
This will be a low-cost missile with built-in networked, collaborative behaviours – or, swarming behaviours.
The first demonstrations will be conducted with from an F-16 aircraft.
But, it will ultimately work with the F-35, F-15, F-18, B-1, B-2 and B-52 aircraft in addition to the F-16.
‘Lockheed Martin’s concept for the Gray Wolf Missile will be an affordable, counter-IAD missile that will operate efficiently in highly contested environments,’ said Hady Mourad, Advanced Missiles Program director for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
‘Using the capabilities envisioned for later spirals, our system is being designed to maximize modularity, allowing our customer to incorporate advanced technologies such as more lethal warheads or more fuel-efficient engines, when those systems become available.’
Lockheed Martin is also working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets.
Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm revealed last month it will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test the technology by 2021.
The move comes after a series of successful tests with similar systems in ground-based platforms – but, the experts say developing a laser for a smaller, airborne design will be a challenge.
LOCKHEED MARTIN’S ATHENA LASER
Lockheed Martin’s laser is a beam combined fiber laser, meaning it brings together individual lasers, generated through fiber optics, to generate a single, intense laser beam.
This allows for a scalable laser system that can be made more powerful by adding more fiber laser subunits.
Athena uses Lockheed Martin’s company’s 30-kW Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN).
It’s powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.
Army bosses hope the radical weapon will give protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars.
The AFRL awarded the contract as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program.
This program includes three subsystems, addressing beam control to direct a laser to the target, a pod mounted on the jet to cool the laser, and the laser itself.
The new laser system would allow fighter jets to take down targets from the air, in contrast to previous systems, which were mounted on vehicles or ships.
‘We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system,’ said Dr Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin.
The Laser Advancements for the Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) aims to be a high energy laser that can be trained on, and disable, an enemy target.
The LANCE contract will build upon the technology used in other recent projects, including the Athena system and Aladin laser.
Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets. Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test it by 2021. Artist’s impression pictured
‘Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a US Army Ground vehicle,’ said Afzal.
‘It’s a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform.
‘It’s exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft. The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real.
‘The technologies are ready to be produced, tested, and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships.’