The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded a $10 million contract to Boeing’s Phantom Works research and development unit last month to study a long-endurance, autonomous UAV for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions and potentially for strike capability. The four-year study of Boeing’s Dominator UAV will also investigate carriage of the Textron Common Smart Submunition (CSS).
Boeing said it responded to an AFRL broad agency announcement earlier this year seeking proposals for armament technology. The contract is for systems studies, integration analyses and demonstrations with the developmental Dominator UAV. “During this period, the Dominator’s use of the [CSS] as a solution for striking fixed and moving targets will be investigated and potentially demonstrated,” Boeing said. The project’s expected completion date is in January 2017.
The boxy, winged Dominator is described as weighing 105 pounds total, with an endurance of 14 to 24 hours. The vehicle will carry 38 pounds of munitions. Its folding surfaces and “container-loader” design allow for air, ground or submarine launch. Command and control, ISR data dissemination and recovery/reuse subsystems from the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle are used. “Dominator risk reduction is well under way, including autonomous flight using small-diameter bomb avionics, demonstration of folding surfaces deployment, engine characterization and mission area payloads,” according to Boeing.
The Textron Defense Systems CSS builds on the BLU-108 smart submunition, adding features for target discrimination, the company says. The 8.8-pound (4 kg) CSS with explosively formed penetrator warhead can be deployed from 155-millimeter artillery, rockets, unmanned aircraft and loitering weapons. It incorporates a “Samara Wing,” a weighted fabric blade that is stowed on board the submunition before ejection. The CSS is deployed spinning from its host carrier, after which the Samara Wing unfolds and provides accurate tilt and auto-rotation. The submunition searches for a valid target within a two-acre coverage area.