Northrop Grumman Australia has announced it will team with Leonardo to offer the AWHero vertical take off UAS (VTUAS) for the RAN’s SEA 129 Phase 5 maritime UAS requirement.
Following the Commonwealth’s March 23 announcement that Northrop Grumman Australia was one of a shortlist of five contenders for the program’s invitation to register (ITR), the company declared its hand the following morning with the system it would be offering.
“Northrop Grumman brings decades of unmatched expertise delivering and sustaining unmanned and manned aerial systems for customers in Australia and across the globe,” Northrop Grumman’s general manager, Asia Pacific, Christine Zeitz said in a release. “We are confident our MUAS offering delivers world-class capability that addresses the RAN’s ISR&T mission requirements and optimises Australian industry capability.”
The release says the AWHero MUAS platform and subsystems offer a capability “specifically designed to operate in complex maritime environments”, and that the air vehicle is “based on a mature and modular architecture that allows a wide and easily reconfigurable range of payloads including Leonardo’s Maritime Radar for unmatched ISR&T area coverage.”
VP Military Sales Asia-Pacific, Leonardo Helicopters Brian McEachen added, “We are excited to join forces with Northrop Grumman and Australian industry partners, further strengthening our collaborative approach in Australia.
“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.”
Northrop Grumman will integrate its own Distributed Autonomy/Responsive Control (DA/RC) command and control system which, when integrated with the ship, air vehicle, and ground control segment, it says will deliver “enhanced and automated tactical decision making to the RAN to help outmatch threats in a complex, unpredictable threat environment”.
It says the system’s collaborative autonomy software will also be incorporated in its distributed systems integration laboratory which will provide Navy and Industry with a collaborative development environment to effectively exploit evolving technologies.
Other contenders for SEA 129 Phase 5 are BAE Systems with an as-yet-undeclared air vehicle, Insitu Pacific with its ScanEagle/Integrator family, Raytheon Australia and Schiebel Pacific with the S-100 Camcopter, and Textron Systems Australia with the Aerosonde Mk4.7/HQ.
The shortlist will see the contenders proceed to a limited request for tender (RFT) which ADBR understands will be issued in early 2022, for final down-select later that year.