This week, RAN announced the shortlist of companies chosen to move forward in the program, with Northrop Grumman Australia and Leonardo Australia making the cut.
The two companies will be working together on a solution for RAN, based on Leonardo’s AWHERO helicopter drone and Northrop Grumman’s command and control system.
AWHERO is an unmanned aerial machine shaped like a helicopter. It can fly at heights of up to 14,000 feet (4.3 km) at speeds of up to 104 mph (167 kph). It has been designed as a surveillance tool, not an offensive one, and it is capable of carrying in its modular payload bays things like radar, infrared, and LiDAR sensors.
In the application for the Australian Navy, AWHERO will be controlled through the Northrop Grumman Distributed Autonomy/Responsive Control (DA/RC) system. That is a command solution that can be integrated with the ship and the aircraft.
“The integrated capability of the AWHero leverages Leonardo’s expertise in rotorcraft, system integration, UAS and operations in the maritime domain, which combined with Northrop Grumman’s extensive portfolio of world-leading capabilities and technologies will provide the Royal Australian Navy with a level of advanced MUAS-based ISR&T they seek both now and into the future,” said in a statement Brian McEachen, VP Military Sales Asia-Pacific, Leonardo Helicopters.
RAN plans to deploy the MUAS on Arafura class offshore patrol vessels, ANZAC class frigates, and ultimately on the new Hunter class frigates in the long term.