UAVs of 2035 from blimps

MBDA, a world leader in missiles and missile systems, is a multi-national group with 10,000 employees on industrial facilities in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the United States.

They have provided their vision of UAVs in 2035.

The CVS301 comprises three main elements: the Armatus integrated communications and launcher; the Caelus persistent target identification and tracking missile; and the Gladius lightweight missile.

At the heart of the Vigilus weapon system is the Armatus smart launcher. Weighing 77 kilograms, the launcher attaches to the air vehicle with a standard Mil Std 1760 interface through which it only needs to draw positional information from the carrier platform. The Armatus system does not intrude into that of the carrier, as all other weapons links are contained internally. Onboard mission planning is performed within the launcher, which also provides a link between ground operators and the other elements of the system, such as Caelus and weapons.

Armatus offers a 300-kilogram payload and is intended to carry a variety of weapon types for mission flexibility. The concept envisions that weapons are held in simple clamps that can accommodate ordnance of various weights and body diameters. This removes the need for traditional bale lugs and sway braces, and also drag-inducing attachments on the weapons themselves. All connection between launcher and weapon, carrying data and power, would be handled wirelessly.

Another key element of CVS301 is the Caelus vehicle. Weighing around 100 kilograms, the vehicle would be dropped from the Armatus. Folding wings of around two meters span and an electric ducted fan (EDF) engine would give an endurance of about two hours. It would carry a sensor suite that includes visible and uncooled long-wave IR capability, plus laser designator. The EDF offers very low infrared and noise signatures, and a good speed range.

The operational concept for the Caelus is for it to be dropped by the UAV (or manned platform) to go in closer to the target than is possible with larger vehicles. It can also go under the cloudbase to maintain persistent contact, removing one of the constraints that hampers current UAV operations. Although primarily intended for ISTAR purposes, the Caelus is also envisioned with a small payload bay that could accommodate a one-kilogram warhead. So armed, the Caelus could be used for immediate attack against ultra-critical targets. An alternative payload for the bay could be small unmanned ground vehicles, or unattended ground sensors, that can be seeded into the target area.

Lightweight Weapon

While the Armatus launcher is planned to handle many weapon types, MBDA has designed a weapon that would be ideal for application to the Vigilus system. Known as Gladius, the missile weighs seven kilograms and has a 44-centimeter wing span, its foldout wings having upturned winglets for greater aerodynamic efficiency. It is essentially a subsonic glide weapon, but has a rocket booster for initial launch to give a range of around 30 kilometers.

Low collateral damage effect is a key driver in the design of the Gladius, and it is envisioned with a multi-mode, in-flight-programmable one-kilogram warhead with explosively formed projectile or directed fragment effects. Guidance would be by a multi-global navigation satellite system with anti-jamming technology, and terminal precision provided by a low-cost strap-down dual-mode sensor with visual/near-IR and semi-active laser guidance.

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