8.5.2020

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works demos autonomous reconnaissance pod

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works demos autonomous reconnaissance pod – link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines

  • Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, known as Skunk Works, has demonstrated an artificial intelligence-powered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) pod autonomously searching out and confirming a target
  • The demonstration was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in California using an ISR pod mounted on a Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter, says the company on 8 May
  • The pod was able “to detect and identify the location of the target, automatically route to the target, and capture an image to confirm the target in a simulated, denied-communications environment,” says Lockheed Martin
  • The company did not disclose other details, such as how communications were denied, though typically that means radio jamming
  • Using artificial intelligence to conduct an ISR mission could allow a UAV to push deeper into enemy airspace where communications could be limited. It could also let aircraft operate in radio silence, making them harder to detect

Overview & Comments

  • Current operational, mainstream, MALE / HALE UASs are great at their contribution in asymmetric theatres
  • However, recent events, as well as rising operational requirements dictate that their contribution to potential areas of operations will not be as effective – i.e. the downing of the MQ-4C by Iran
  • A conflict with a state player is more than possible these days than in previous years. State actors such as Iran, North Korea or even Russia & China with relevance to various geographical areas of interest
  • State actors with advanced air defense layers that common UAS will not be able to operate in without almost full air superiority
  • Aside from straight-forward air defense systems, UAVs obtain additional “soft-spots” that will be targeted by potential foes. For example, the datalink, satellites & fixed GCSs
  • See “The Army is moving forward with its electronic warfare pod”
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