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DARPA Launches Gremlins Program

AeroFranz

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Pipe dream IS the DARPA mandate. They don't say "DARPA hard " for no reason.
And yes, it doesn't always end up making sense. See RapidEye, Vulture, Transformer T-X, etc.
 

bring_it_on

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DARPA leaves flexibility for industry on Gremlins unmanned munition

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's air-recoverable unmanned Gremlins may not end up going home to a C-130 cargo aircraft as originally envisioned, according to the deputy director of the agency's tactical technologies office.

DARPA's Gremlins project involves a retrievable, reusable unmanned munition. The agency's original vision for Gremlins included a C-130 with a mechanism which could release and recover the unmanned missile. But DARPA also built in flexibility for the project's cargo aircraft and the selected vehicle could change depending on what industry pitches, Pamela Melroy said in a Dec. 7 interview with Inside the Air Force.

"We sort of have a notional value in our head before we start," she said. "But what ends up happening when we throw the challenge out to people is they end up bringing in things we didn't expect."

DARPA is in the process of source selection for Gremlins. Melroy could not comment on cargo aircraft proposals for the unmanned system. Following source selection and contract negotiations, performers are expected to begin designing systems in the spring, she said.

Although the hybrid missile and recoverable drone seems far in the future, the components for Gremlins already exist, Melroy said. The U.S. military demonstrated a proof of concept for recoverable UAVs as early as the Vietnam era, she said. While the challenge remains bringing together the individuals who have the knowledge of those various components, a September industry day for Gremlins succeeded in gathering many of those pieces.

"Now we have the technology pieces showing that it's possible to bring the UAV much closer into this complex aerodynamic environment," she said. "So how about putting all those pieces together and making a system that has true capability and understanding it."

As the Air Force wrestles with an insatiable demand from foreign partners for munitions, Gremlins could offer a reusable missile option with the shorter lifespan of a drone. Rather than design an expensive weapon to last 30 years, Gremlins would last for about 20 uses, Melroy said. That allows not only a more cost-effective system, but one that would not require longer testing for sophisticated electronics, she said. The project could also find efficiencies with smaller salvo size and jamming.

While a missile and a UAV share much of the same technology, DARPA must demonstrate a recoverable missile. The question remains whether DARPA wants to bring a missile back on board an aircraft, Melroy said.

"You've fired it; if you're bringing it back on board and you miss, now you've shot yourself down," she said. "But if it requires extremely close precision flying and you have an impact, that would be a very bad solution to bring a missile back on board. But if you capture it further away and then you're towing it in, maybe it's no problem."
 

jsport

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bring_it_on said:
DARPA leaves flexibility for industry on Gremlins unmanned munition

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's air-recoverable unmanned Gremlins may not end up going home to a C-130 cargo aircraft as originally envisioned, according to the deputy director of the agency's tactical technologies office.

DARPA's Gremlins project involves a retrievable, reusable unmanned munition. The agency's original vision for Gremlins included a C-130 with a mechanism which could release and recover the unmanned missile. But DARPA also built in flexibility for the project's cargo aircraft and the selected vehicle could change depending on what industry pitches, Pamela Melroy said in a Dec. 7 interview with Inside the Air Force.

"We sort of have a notional value in our head before we start," she said. "But what ends up happening when we throw the challenge out to people is they end up bringing in things we didn't expect."

DARPA is in the process of source selection for Gremlins. Melroy could not comment on cargo aircraft proposals for the unmanned system. Following source selection and contract negotiations, performers are expected to begin designing systems in the spring, she said.

Although the hybrid missile and recoverable drone seems far in the future, the components for Gremlins already exist, Melroy said. The U.S. military demonstrated a proof of concept for recoverable UAVs as early as the Vietnam era, she said. While the challenge remains bringing together the individuals who have the knowledge of those various components, a September industry day for Gremlins succeeded in gathering many of those pieces.

"Now we have the technology pieces showing that it's possible to bring the UAV much closer into this complex aerodynamic environment," she said. "So how about putting all those pieces together and making a system that has true capability and understanding it."

As the Air Force wrestles with an insatiable demand from foreign partners for munitions, Gremlins could offer a reusable missile option with the shorter lifespan of a drone. Rather than design an expensive weapon to last 30 years, Gremlins would last for about 20 uses, Melroy said. That allows not only a more cost-effective system, but one that would not require longer testing for sophisticated electronics, she said. The project could also find efficiencies with smaller salvo size and jamming.

While a missile and a UAV share much of the same technology, DARPA must demonstrate a recoverable missile. The question remains whether DARPA wants to bring a missile back on board an aircraft, Melroy said.

"You've fired it; if you're bringing it back on board and you miss, now you've shot yourself down," she said. "But if it requires extremely close precision flying and you have an impact, that would be a very bad solution to bring a missile back on board. But if you capture it further away and then you're towing it in, maybe it's no problem."
Thank you BIO, great reflection of the apparent incompetent associated decision makers.
 

bring_it_on

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If the Aviation Week graphic is an accurate description, then we are looking at 600 nm radius with an hour of time on station. Air Vehicle target price is $700,000 and given the requirements it doesn't look like it will be small especially given the fact that the payload needs to be substantial to make recovering worthwhile..

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/darpa-selects-industry-teams-for-gremlins-uav-proj-423819/
 

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marauder2048

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bring_it_on said:
If the Aviation Week graphic is an accurate description, then we are looking at 600 nm radius with an hour of time on station. Air Vehicle target price is $700,000 and given the requirements it doesn't look like it will be small especially given the fact that the payload needs to be substantial to make recovering worthwhile..

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/darpa-selects-industry-teams-for-gremlins-uav-proj-423819/
The Gremlins air vehicle is the result of feeding MALD-J JP-10 after midnight; Composite Engineering Inc builds the fuselage for MALD-J.
 

Sentinel36k

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I'm intrigued why they didn't include the B-2 and B-21 as launch platforms. RCS on the gremlins might betray their position?...

Sentinel
 

AeroFranz

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Gremlins will be compatible with rotary launchers, presumably, so it's not excluded you wouldn't be able to launch them out of a B-2 or B-21. As for recovery...highly doubtful. Realistically, only C-130s (maybe C-17s) could be used. More importantly, there just aren't a whole lot of B-2s operational at any one time to support the deployment of these UAVs that are supposed to be employed in swarms.
 

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https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/darpa-selects-industry-teams-for-gremlins-uav-proj-423819/?cmpid=NLC|FGFG|FGUAV-2016-0411-GLOBnews&sfid=70120000000taAj
 

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DARPA draws diverse industry expertise for Gremlins UAS concept


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has cast a wide net across industry for its Gremlins concept, leveraging expertise from both munitions and unmanned aerial systems for its latest venture into unmanned, swarming vehicles.

Last week, the Air Force awarded four research and development contracts for Gremlins to Dynetics, General Atomics, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions and Lockheed Martin. Phase one of the Gremlins program will lead to a proof-of-concept flight demonstration validating air recovery of a volley of UAVs, according to a March 31 DARPA press release.

DARPA has defined Gremlins as a volley of low-cost, limited-life, unmanned systems that would be launched from a larger aircraft, which could include cargo, bomber, fighter or fixed-wing platforms. A C-130 aircraft would recover the Gremlins, which could be used about 20 times over their lifetime, according to the agency.

In artist renderings, the small UAVs resemble Lockheed's air launched cruise missiles, but the proven concept could vary depending on the individual contractor's design and expertise. Kratos, which has developed the BQM-167A subscale aerial target for the Air Force, could develop a Gremlin concept that would resemble its MQM-178 Firejet aerial target, Eric DeMarco, Kratos president and CEO, said in an April 1 interview with Inside the Air Force.

The Gremlins mission is not well-defined yet and could include kinetic, non-kinetic, electronic warfare or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, DeMarco said.

DeMarco declined to say whether the UAV would return to a C-130, citing the company's technical approach to air recovery. However, the recovery plane would likely be a cargo aircraft capable of carrying dozens of UAVs and discussions over Gremlins have also included the arsenal plane concept, a joint Pentagon and Air Force concept that would use an existing aircraft to ferry large amounts of ordnance. Last year, DARPA left the recovery vehicle for Gremlins open to industry, ITAF previously reported.

The agency also pulled in Dynetics for the project, a smaller contractor that has served as a prime on the GBU-43B massive ordnance air blast bomb, a 22,0000-pound blast weapon launched from a C-130J aircraft. Dynetics also performed as a key subcontractor to Boeing for the aerodynamic design and tail kit mechanical design on the massive ordnance penetrator.

The company has supported the Army's tactical Shadow UAS since the program's inception, although Dynetics has not developed any unmanned aerial systems on its own, Mark Miller, division manager of Dynetics Missile and Aviation Systems, said in an April 6 interview with ITAF. That mix of UAS and munitions work has helped lay the foundation for Gremlins, he said.

"We always feel like we're David going up against these big companies," he said. "But we're trying to establish a niche with these programs and I think some key aspects would be the agility that a smaller company that has a lot of those skill sets and manufacturing capabilities."

Gremlins' greatest challenge to industry remains recovering a swarm of UAVs. While the U.S. military demonstrated a proof of concept for recoverable UAVs as early as the Vietnam era, recovering quantities of vehicles creates a more complex challenge, Miller said. The contractor must understand how to handle a mix of payloads flying at varying speeds with different size, weight and power, he said.
 

bring_it_on

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Something related:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cWa7hCAwkk
 

bring_it_on

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Composite Engineering Inc. (CEI) - Unmanned Systems Div., Sacramento, California, has been awarded a $40,848,839 cost-share contract for research and development. The Government share is $7,322,399 and the contractor share is $33,526,440. The contractor will provide design, develop, assemble, and test a technical baseline for a high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike unmanned aerial system. The program will also identify key enabling technologies for future low-cost attainable aircraft demonstrations and provide a vehicle for future capability and technology demonstrations. Work will be performed at Sacramento, California, and is expected to be complete by April 18, 2019. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with seven offers received. Fiscal 2015 and 2016 funds in the amount of $7,322,399 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-16-C-2604).
LINK
 

bring_it_on

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James Drew Aviation Week -

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has bested six well-resourced rivals to win the U.S. Air Force’s highly sought-after Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System technology demonstration program.
What looks on the surface like a lopsided fiscal giveaway is actually a strategic victory for the San Diego-based company and its unmanned systems division, Composite Engineering, Inc. (CEI) of Sacramento, California. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has entered into a cost-sharing arrangement for research and development of the “high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike unmanned aerial system” in which the U.S. government pays $7.3 million up front and Kratos commits as much as $33.5 million over the life of the program, which runs through April 2019. But the base contract includes as many as five “technology spirals” valued at $20 million each, and the project’s ultimate goal is to demonstrate an affordable, semi-expendable strike aircraft that can be procured in volume at $3 million each for a batch of one-99 or $2 million per unit for bulk orders of more than 100.
“We structured our bid to achieve this contract,” Kratos President and Chief Executive Officer Eric DeMarco told Aviation Week after receiving official confirmation of the contract on July 8. “This is an incredibly important and strategic win for our company. We believe this was one of the most highly sought-after tactical unmanned system procurements out there. We believe that much larger and more established players were competing for it. Our ability to compete and be successful, we believe, validates our technology, our capability and our strategy in this area.”
The company has quietly developed and demonstrated the Mach 0.9-capable Kratos Tactical Unmanned Aerial Platform-22 (UTAP-22), which is based on Composite Engineering’s BQM-167 subscale aerial target drone that mimics the capability of high-end adversary warplanes. It has an advertised range of 1,400 nm and operating ceiling of 50,000 ft. with -2g to 9g maneuverability. The BQM-167 derivative has a 350-lb., 8.5-ft³. payload bay as well as 100 lb. hard points for munitions on its wing tips and 500 lb. external load capacity.
Kratos, formerly Wireless Facilities, Inc., developed the weapon-carrying combat platform using its own funds through 2013 and 2014. Late last year it conducted several successful tests at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, where the aircraft was controlled from legacy aircraft to test so-called loyal wingman technology. The third flight demonstrations on Dec. 11 saw two UTAP-22 and a third simulated example fly in formation, with one breaking away from the wolf pack to “coordinated semi-autonomous payload deployment” and then returning to formation.
DeMarco would not confirm any link between UTAP-22 and the Attritable Strike win, but it is highly likely that was the basis of Composite Engineering’s successful proposal. The Navy demonstrations might have also helped Kratos secure its place on Phase I of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins project, alongside Dynetics, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Lockheed.
Gremlins, awarded on March 31, is examining technologies and concepts of operation for the deployment and recovery of low-cost, multi-mission UASs from airlifters and bombers such as the Lockheed C-130, Boeing C-17 or B-52.
 

CammNut

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Please at least credit where the story you have copied came from - this one is from James Drew, Aviation Week
 

bring_it_on

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CammNut said:
Please at least credit where the story you have copied came from - this one is from James Drew, Aviation Week
Done, I usually credit but missed it this time.
 

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http://breakingdefense.com/2016/09/how-to-land-a-drone-on-a-manned-airplane-darpas-gremlins/
 

bring_it_on

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Loyal Wingman programme

Whereas the army is already operational with its MUM-T capability, the USAF is looking to develop more sophisticated teaming for its platforms, which will involve higher levels of autonomy in the unmanned element - in order to support the projected mission sets - and will require advanced UASs to fill a number of roles. Its efforts are being spearheaded by the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL's) Autonomy for Loyal Wingman programme.

"We are focusing our programme on creating the onboard software and algorithms that can enable the system to reason about how it should be flying and what it needs to be doing to perform its mission," Kris Kearns, AFRL's Autonomy Portfolio Lead and Senior Advisor for Autonomy Research in the Airman Systems Directorate, told IHS Jane's .

Kearns said in addition to examining the technologies required for flight, they are also looking at what is needed to enable the aircraft to fly safely in unsegregated airspace and how to undertake missions autonomously, "[How can it] dynamically plan the routes that it has to fly in order to perform the mission, and how does it understand where it is in the physical environment as well as where it is in the phase of the mission so it knows what it should be doing."Kearns was quick to note, however, that the aircraft would be operating within the confines of a designated mission. "That mission is something that is given to it. It is something that an air force commander would provide so that it has a very constrained understanding of what it is and isn't allowed to do."

Kearns outlined some of the work that has taken place so far using F-16 aircraft as testbeds, which have included flights in conjunction with the USAF Test Pilot School. "We have undertaken some test flights to show that we can put the software algorithms on board [an] aircraft and demonstrate that they know how to fly and maintain a safe distance in formation with another aircraft," she explained, adding, "We put two F-16s in the air, one of them was flown and piloted, the other had a pilot in the seat but the algorithms were flying the airplane and that airplane was able to manoeuvre into the different formation locations at the appropriate time the piloted manned F-16 gave the algorithm-flown F-16 a command to perform a preloaded mission … the pilot was there to make sure everything worked well, but essentially he was hands off and enjoyed the ride.

"Doing it at command level is a critical step to be able to show that we can safely fly a vehicle; so then we can add in the higher-level reasoning and cognitive agents that can make sense of an environment and figure out how to adapt to changes on-the-fly.

Kearns said the plan for the first phase of the programme is to demonstrate that the aircraft can safely operate before exploring higher-level autonomy. The Loyal Wingman work will also enable the air force to consider the potential missions in which they can apply technologies; one concept of operations for the Loyal Wingman would see the unmanned aircraft used as what Kearns described as a "bomb truck". "The unmanned wingman would be able to deliver a weapon on a target that has been identified by the pilot. That is the reason for being a manned/unmanned team, because our pilots are in the air to prosecute targets and they're the ones that will make the final call."

A Request for Information issued by the AFRL for the Loyal Wingman effort outlined a requirement for the enabling technology to be integrated in one or more line-replaceable units that can be transferred between aircraft. A proof-of-concept capstone demonstration is slated for fiscal year 2022, with the manned/unmanned team conducting a simulated ground strike mission in a contested environment.

Kearns said the Loyal Wingman programme has a robust simulation and modelling element. "As we develop these algorithms with a higher level of reasoning, the modelling and simulation allows us to test those out, and our plan is to do some software-in-the-loop testing, integrate the algorithms into the hardware that will be flying, and do hardware-in-the-loop testing on the ground before we ever go out and fly. So what we will have is the test data from the modelling and simulation to show how things work, and where maybe they don't work as well as we would like."

The operator component of the manned-unmanned team is also part of the effort and regular feedback from pilots is being gathered and evaluated, Kearns said. Assessing the cognitive burden and workload placed on the pilot and addressing any issues is an important aspect, she explained. "When we talk about manned-unmanned teaming, the emphasis really is on the teaming … how do we enhance the capabilities of that team."

GREMLINS PROGRAMME

Unsurprisingly, the development of MUM-T technologies and concepts has not escaped the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which, through its Gremlins programme, is examining small UASs that can be launched and retrieved in the air.

First announced by DARPA in 2015, the Gremlins programme is seeking to demonstrate the safe and reliable aerial launch and recovery of a swarm of UASs capable of employing and recovering diverse distributed payloads (27.2-54.4 kg) in 'volley' quantities. The concept envisages the launch of a 20-strong UAS 'swarm' from a C-130 aircraft, with the unmanned aircraft capable of a 300 n mile transit to the area of operations, one hour on station, a return transit of up to 300 n miles, and mid-air recovery into the C-130. The estimated price target for a Gremlin UAS is about USD700,000 per aircraft, excluding payloads, for 1,000-unit order quantities once in production. The current vision is to reuse the UAVs 20 times.

Four companies - Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, Kratos, and Dynetics - received Phase 1 award contracts in late March 2016. Under these contracts, they will perform system architecture and design studies to develop a conceptual Gremlins system design, analyse aerial launch and aerial recovery methods, refine operational concepts, and perform demonstration system design and plan for potential future phases.

DARPA plans to award two Phase 2 contracts in the first half of 2017, each of which will be worth about USD20 million. Following a preliminary design review scheduled for the second quarter of 2018, DARPA plans to downselect one team to receive a USD35 million Phase 3 contract. This will culminate in 2020 with a flight test.

At present, the primary role envisaged for the Gremlins aircraft is to act as ISR assets, extending reach and removing manned assets - or higher value UASs - from harm's way. The aircraft will be capable of working in a network to provide an enhanced capability, and ultimately Gremlins will be available for deployment from a range of manned platforms.
 

CammNut

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Publication? Author? Credit the person who did the work. Simple good manners
 

marauder2048

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CammNut said:
Publication? Author? Credit the person who did the work. Simple good manners
Kris Kearns, AFRL and her team did the work. What could have been an auto-transcription program captured her remarks.
 

CammNut

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So it was an autotranscription service that provided this site with access to the information? How kind of it. And it works for free? It's wonderful what technology can do these days.
 

marauder2048

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CammNut said:
So it was an autotranscription service that provided this site with access to the information? How kind of it. And it works for free? It's wonderful what technology can do these days.

Given the lack of original and insightful analysis that appears in articles of this type, they might as well have been auto-transcribed.
Auto-transcription has the advantage of being bias free and complete i.e. the reader isn't at the mercy of the someone else's judgement as to
what's important and what isn't.
 

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OK - this stops. Argue about the merits of specific journals or publishers all you like, but correct attribution of sources is a mandatory requirement for this forum. The specific article is clearly from Janes and should be attributed as such. If it was paywalled then a summary would be more appropriate than a straight copy and paste.
 

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Thanks Paul & Cammnut for pointing this out. Let's all do a better job of crediting through links etc the great information we're able to aggregate in this forum. Better yet, a link and summary so the originating site gets the clicks.

Remember - it's how these writers feed their families. Without their work effort and the publications, advertisers and subscribers that pay them we wouldn't "know what we know".
 

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The Feb 20th AW&ST pg 43 Drone Strike the Kratos CEO claims "hundreds of thousands" of aircraft at $700k each. This for a craft that would appear to have nothing on the old powered MALD concept. It is low endurance by propulsor and airframe and by their own admission appears only to recoverable by parachute as it is a conventional jet. It does not appear to have much dynamic maneuver capability or LO characteristics, not maximized for internal payload..Appears a rather retro target drone rehash rather DARPA hard. Again some other characteristics should have been /researched/contracted first not expensive COTS w/ no advancement.
 

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"Progress Toward an Ability to Recover Unmanned Aerial Vehicles on the Fly"
Work advances to enable “aircraft carriers in the sky” that would launch and retrieve low-cost “gremlins”
outreach@darpa.mil

3/15/2017

Source:
http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-03-15

DARPA recently completed Phase 1 of its Gremlins program, which envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—or “gremlins”—that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air. Taking the program to its next stage, the Agency has now awarded Phase 2 contracts to two teams, one led by Dynetics, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.) and the other by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.).

“The Phase 1 program showed the feasibility of airborne UAS launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification to the host aircraft,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager. “We’re aiming in Phase 2 to mature two system concepts to enable ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’ using air-recoverable UASs that could carry various payloads—advances that would greatly extend the range, flexibility, and affordability of UAS operations for the U.S. military.”

Gremlins Phase 2 research seeks to complete preliminary designs for full-scale technology demonstration systems, as well as develop and perform risk-reduction tests of individual system components. Phase 3 goals include developing one full-scale technology demonstration system and conducting flight demonstrations involving airborne launch and recovery of multiple gremlins. Flight tests are currently scheduled for the 2019 timeframe.

Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program envisions launching groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft—including bombers, transport, fighters, and small, unmanned fixed-wing platforms—while out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable unmanned systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional manned platforms.
 

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"Dynetics wins DARPA contract for Gremlin swarming drones"
by Dynetics | March 16, 2017

Source:
http://www.uasmagazine.com/articles/1666/dynetics-wins-darpa-contract-for-gremlin-swarming-drones

Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama, has been awarded a contract for Phase 2 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Gremlins program. The technology program's goal is to enable aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost reusable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and safely and reliably retrieve them in midair.

The Gremlins architecture is designed to enable other technologies such as advanced payloads and autonomous battle management for swarming systems.

Beginning this month, Phase 2 is a planned 12-month effort worth up to $21 million in which Dynetics seeks to develop a detailed system design and mature technologies that are critical to achieving Gremlins’ challenging goals.

Mark Miller, Dynetics’ Gremlins program manager, said, “We are very pleased and excited that DARPA selected our Gremlins design. This opportunity expands previous work we have performed developing and rapidly fielding air-launched systems and leverages our creativity and agility. Our goal is to not only successfully complete the Gremlins demonstration for DARPA but to also help eventually transition this capability in some form to the warfighter.”

Dynetics has assembled a team of technology providers including Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc., Sierra Nevada Corp., Applied Systems Engineering Inc., Williams International, Systima Technologies Inc., Airborne Systems, Moog Inc. and International Air Response.

“Our team is made up of multiple divisions within our company providing a diverse set of expertise, and our subcontractors represent the best in their class for their assigned roles. We understand this important challenge is essential for our nation’s defense capability. Successful execution of Gremlins would lay the groundwork for the future use of swarming, recoverable systems for multiple missions,” said Tim Keeter, Dynetics deputy program manager and chief engineer for Gremlins.

During Phase 1, Dynetics successfully designed flight demonstration concepts for launch and recovery techniques, low-cost limited airframe designs and high-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping. The company was one of four competing companies awarded a contract in Phase 1.

In Phase 2, the focus is on technology maturation. Phase 3 will aim to finalize the design and ultimately demonstrate the ability to launch Gremlins air vehicles and then safely recover them onto a C-130 aircraft. Based on Phase 2 results, DARPA plans to award Phase 3 in early 2018.
 

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"DARPA awards Gremlins Phase 2 contracts"
17th March 2017 - 12:00 by The Shephard News Team

Source:
https://www.shephardmedia.com/news/uv-online/darpa-awards-gremlins-phase-2-contract/

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded phase two contracts for its Gremlins programme to two teams led by Dynetics and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the agency announced on 15 March.

DARPA's Gremlins programme envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable UAS - dubbed 'gremlins' - that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air by 'aircraft carriers in the sky'.

Under the now complete first phase of the programme, the feasibility of airborne UAS launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification to the host aircraft was shown. Under phase two, research seeks to complete preliminary designs for full-scale technology demonstration systems, as well as develop and perform risk-reduction tests of individual system components.

Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager, said: 'We're aiming in phase two to mature two system concepts to enable 'aircraft carriers in the sky' using air-recoverable UAS that could carry various payloads—advances that would greatly extend the range, flexibility, and affordability of UAS operations for the US military.'

Phase three goals include developing one full-scale technology demonstration system and conducting flight demonstrations involving airborne launch and recovery of multiple gremlins. Flight tests are currently scheduled for the 2019 timeframe.

The programme envisions multiple types of military aircraft (bombers, transports, fighters, and small UAS) launching groups of UAS while out of range of adversary defences. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

DARPA expects that the gremlins' expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable unmanned systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional manned platforms.
 

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Full-scale model of 700-lb. General Dynamics Small Unmanned Air Vehicle (sUAS), aka Gremlins, concept on display at Air Force Association (AFA) Air, Space, and Cyber conference 2016.

Source:
http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2016-09-20/experts-unmanned-aircraft-must-operate-contested-airspace
http://breakingdefense.com/2016/09/how-to-land-a-drone-on-a-manned-airplane-darpas-gremlins/
http://www.janes.com/article/64005/afa-2016-general-atomics-looks-to-adopt-darpa-s-gremlin-effort-to-mq-9
 

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bring_it_on

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General Atomics, Dynetics outline Gremlins approaches as phase two begins


Teams led by General Atomics and Dynetics beat competitors at Lockheed Martin and Composite Engineering to enter the second phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Gremlins project, and will continue competing over the next year to build a system capable of launching and recovering unmanned aerial vehicles with a C-130.

Gremlins would allow the Air Force to eventually field multiple disposable UAVs equipped with different payloads that could fly ahead of a host aircraft on strike, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance or other missions.

Company officials outlined their approaches going into phase two of the program in recent phone interviews following DARPA's March 15 announcement that the two teams would advance.

General Atomics sees Gremlins as a launchpad for a small UAS portfolio it will unveil over the next three years. The company plans to add recoverable, airborne UAS to its MQ-9 Reaper and stealthier Avenger as well as across the Air Force inventory and Navy platforms like the P-8 Poseidon and future MQ-25.

"GA's position for phase one and moving forward is to create a product within the Gremlins program that's transportable to as many host platforms as possible to include things like C-17s, C-130s, unmanned aircraft," Mike Atwood, director of General Atomics' advanced programs group, told ITAF March 22. "It's not necessarily to focus at the cargo bay or the wing or different aspects of the C-130, but to focus on a system that's transportable to different aircraft and different recovery stations in the future."


Tim Keeter, Dynetics' deputy program manager and chief engineer for Gremlins, said in a March 16 phone interview the UAVs could viably launch from and return to inside the aircraft, do the same from the wing, or launch from one and dock on the other.

"In one approach, you could launch it from a pylon and recover it on a pylon," he said. "You could launch it from inside an aircraft and recover it inside the aircraft. You have to look at automation and manpower and the time of recovery, and all those factors play into different approaches."

A Lockheed Martin spokeswoman confirmed March 20 the company's C-130 would be able to carry UAVs on its outer wing pylons, depending on their size, shape and weight. The Gremlins design has to account for how large, heavy and powerful UAVs are when carrying various payloads, to figure out the physics needed to fly on and off of a C-130.

The air flow around a large cargo aircraft adds another layer of complexity, Keeter said, particularly when flying in difficult weather conditions and at various altitudes. Those environmental factors could make it easier or harder to launch or recover a UAV from the wing compared to inside the aircraft. General Atomics officials did not offer details but said their solution allows for safe, robust recovery.

Air Force Special Operations Command missions are the target use for Gremlins' initial operational rollout, Atwood said. He said whether the small UAS launch from and return to the C-130 wing or cargo bay depends on how warfighters envision their use.

"Accomplishing this objective will eventually equip the military with the flexibility to complement current mission objectives by doing things like improving standoff of manned aircraft, multiplying efforts to geolocate targets, and extending strike capability of current combat platforms," Keeter said. "It will also provide a necessary architecture for future U.S. military objectives in the area of unmanned autonomous distributed capabilities."

DARPA wants the Gremlins concept to use swarms of low-cost, attritable UAVs that can be recycled about 20 times, with less than 24 hours between missions. The more UAVs that are part of the Gremlins system, the more affordable the program becomes, Keeter suggested. Atwood added General Atomics generally believes volleys consist of more than 16 UAVs in a swarm.

The UAVs are expected to fly 300 to 500 nautical miles away from the C-130 and loiter. Keeter imagines the radius will increase over time.


During the program's 10-month-long first phase, companies developed detailed concepts of operations, system-level requirements, performance and affordability studies, and plans for phases two and three with cost, schedule and performance estimates. In phase two, which will run over the next year, and phase three, which will last about 18 months, the teams will mature systems that can help UAVs overcome the challenges of airflow, speed, proximity to the C-130 and more to successfully launch and return the small aircraft.

"When you have an unmanned system and a manned system flying in close formation, there's a lot of safety concerns because you have to close the distance," Keeter said. "You want to make sure that at all times . . . the potential for that to strike the manned aircraft is very low. There's just a lot of technical complexities that go with that type of precision and those types of safety features -- mechanical, electrical, software, you name it."

Dynetics' Program Manager Mark Miller added during the March 16 interview the challenge lies in controlling multiple Gremlins while they wait to board the aircraft and designing the means to pull them in. Engineers need to make sure the aircraft align properly without bumping into each other and are recovered quickly enough to make the idea feasible.

While DARPA's directive focuses on the C-130, Dynetics did not elaborate on how designs may differ across the aircraft's variants. General Atomics' design would not change under different circumstances, Atwood said.

"The solution that GA's proposed and is executing on the phase two is not unique depending on the mission set, the type of configuration of the air vehicle or the host system platform," Atwood said. "You can perform the same recovery mechanisms whether it be EO/IR sensors, electronic warfare sensors, kinetic capability … with the same investment."


That mindset applies to their unmanned aircraft plans as well: UAS could fly on the Reaper's seven hard points on the wing and body, or the Avenger's hard points and inside the internal weapons bay.

"If you're DARPA, you want a value proposition," Atwood said. "If GA is able to propose a system that is relevant, not only to our own unmanned platforms, but as well as P-8s and C-17s and B-1s, the larger community of aircraft that we have, you could see why it would be easy to select a company like General Atomics that's giving them a much more pervasive solution than something that's solely about a demonstration on the C-130."

Keeter added Dynetics' subsystem technology could also fly with manned-manned, manned-unmanned or unmanned-unmanned teams.

Dynetics prefers a completely autonomous system, though the Gremlins could be flown by someone on the C-130 or on the ground.

"There's just a number of different approaches that you could take in terms of when you hand off control of the vehicle and let it operate autonomously, versus when you have a man in the loop," Keeter said. "We're going to want to take the most reliable route with the technology that we can mature and implement between now and phase three."

Chris Pehrson, General Atomics' vice president of strategic development for the Defense Department, told ITAF March 22 their Gremlins technology will be similar to the company's automatic takeoff and landing capability, using high levels of autonomy.

Col. Brandon Baker, chief of the Air Force's remotely piloted aircraft capabilities division, told reporters last October the Air Force and DARPA signed a memorandum of understanding so the service's intelligence officers can explore the possibilities of command-and-control networks in relation to Gremlins. Pehrson said they regularly meet with Baker, Air Force ISR Capabilities Director Gen. John Rauch and Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR Lt. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson to discuss key enabling network technologies and concepts of operations that could apply across the new class of small UAS.

Stakeholders are studying which datalinks would be most robust and resilient for a swarm, Pehrson added.

Gremlins could eventually serve as a testbed for payloads, datalinks, communication techniques and collaborative autonomy, Atwood said -- "kind of a flying garage shop to the AFRL community."

"The entire community's collaborating," Atwood said, noting the "early buy-in of the operations community and the futures community of wanting to be stakeholders on the ground floor and not waiting for a development program to happen and then figure out how to use it."

"I think it embodies where the defense industry's heading with more stakeholders early in the process, and to see a large organization like the Air Force want to partner with someone like DARPA, I think shows the health of the aerospace industry," he added.

The Dynetics officials said the MOU has not spurred any differences in their work.

DARPA awarded each company design contracts worth up to $21 million for phase two, according to Dynetics. One company will win a contract in early 2018 for phase three and conduct final flight tests in 2019. The Interior Department also awarded Dynetics and General Atomics "phase II, part B" test contracts on March 13 for nearly $500,000, and on March 8 for almost $1.5 million, respectively.

"Due to the rapid nature of the program and the fact that it is a demonstration (as opposed to a formal program of record), DARPA is acting as the airworthiness authority for all flight tests and funding those activities under the Part B contract," Dynetics spokeswoman Kristina Hendrix wrote in a March 23 email. "Differences in how the total amount is split between Parts A and B likely have to do with each contractor's airworthiness activities and rates."

DARPA did not respond to further questions by press time (March 23).
 

marauder2048

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Thanks for the detailed article. AFRL has been looking for both low-cost cruise missiles and low-cost decoys (cheaper MALD-Js).
Looks like this effort might satisfy both requirements.
 

AeroFranz

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It depends in large measure on what powerplant and sensors they use. The turbojets Williams and P&W make in this class cost ~$250K a pop, and that's already taking into account high volume production. Sensors can get pretty expensive too. I'm having a hard time figuring out where they can cut cost significantly. The airframe is probably not a big cost driver.
 

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I imagine just the fact that they'll be reusable will be a good cost saving - not having to throw away the better part of a million dollars (ballpark guess; ADM-160B's are apparently ~$330k) every time you want to use a MALD-J or similar system.
 

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Even if they are used 3-4 times during their life that is a potentially significant saving and allows for the payloads to get more sophisticated, and expensive given that they come back and can be reused.
 

marauder2048

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Given the less aggressive max speed goals my assumption is that they could use a cheaper, derated propulsion
system relative to MALD.
 

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I think all of these comments make sense, but the obstacles are more numerous than one might imagine at first.
P&W and Williams will not redesign anything and set up separate assembly lines unless they have a firm multi-thousands units order. But it's hard to get firm order for something if you don't have the right engine for it, so it's kind of a chicken and egg situation.
The Gremlin engine requires air-start capability over a wide envelope, and if it's re-usable, it ideally wouldn't be a pyrotechnic device (which is preferred in 'throwaway' cruise missiles using engines like the F107). Lubrication is also a challenge since most engines use a total loss system, and the current capacity is not designed for something like 12 hours of flight. The last item concerns power generation for the sensors. The stated requirement of 1.2kW is way more than cruise missiles demand. A bigger generator would be required, and i wonder if the engine cycle would be ok with a much increased drain.
Anyway, at the end of each flight you'd have to refurbish the engine, which may be unsustainable.

If the air force were willing to fund engine development, it may be a different story. I think there is a need for small UAV gas turbines for both Gremlins and other programs such as AFRL's LCAAT.
 

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"DARPA’s Gremlin UAVs Could Enable Next Step In Air Warfare"
Mar 28, 2017 Graham Warwick | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Source:
http://aviationweek.com/intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance/darpa-s-gremlin-uavs-could-enable-next-step-air-warfare

Excerpt
Will the ability for groups of cooperating autonomous aircraft to be launched and recovered by other aircraft, manned and unmanned, be the key to the next evolution in aerial warfare? The teams working on DARPA’s Gremlins program believe it will. Gremlins aims to demonstrate that multiple small UAVs can be launched from a carrier aircraft and recovered in flight by a C-130 transport, returned to base, serviced and launched on a new mission. The air-recoverable, reusable, but ...
 

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marauder2048

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AeroFranz said:
Lubrication is also a challenge since most engines use a total loss system,
The stated requirement of 1.2kW is way more than cruise missiles demand. A bigger generator would be required, and i wonder if the engine cycle would be ok with a much increased drain.
If the air force were willing to fund engine development, it may be a different story. I think there is a need for small UAV gas turbines for both Gremlins and other programs such as AFRL's LCAAT.
There is a separate Air Force effort to improve miniature turbojet/turbofan durability through new materials for the bearings/housing/cages etc which would permit just JP-8 lubrication.
So ideally, not so much a redesign but a recoating/refabrication of some of the components to give them 60+ hours of life.
And 1.2 kW isn't that much more than what's provisioned for the MALD payloads.

But I agree with you that wide-envelope windmill start capability is a real challenge.
 
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