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    Elbit Systems Introduces a New Tactical UAS: the Hermes 650 Spark

    Elbit Systems has rolled out the Hermes 650 Spark, the latest addition to its Hermes family of Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS). The company has reported that this new model in the Hermes UAS portfolio delivers an advanced design with enhanced performance features and greater payload flexibility. The Hermes 650 Spark is designed to be the contemporary successor to the long-serving Hermes 450, aiming to modernize UAS fleets that currently consist of mixed 450/900 models or are exclusively equipped with the 450 variants.

    Comparison of the Hermes family members.

    A Long Legacy

    In the 1990s, the Hermes 450 set a precedent in the tactical UAS domain with its slender body, pusher propeller, V-tail, and underwing hardpoints. The early 2000s saw the larger Hermes 900 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) build on this foundation, tailoring it for broader mission profiles by accommodating multiple payloads, thanks to its enlarged body, additional underwing hardpoints, and expanded payload bay. A decade later, the Starliner evolved these concepts further and became the first MALE UAS certified for unsegregated operation in civilian-controlled airspace.

    The Spark represents a significant leap forward from the tactical Hermes 450 by adopting a mission-optimized aerodynamic design and featuring an aviation-certified forward engine, enhancing performance and spatial efficiency to support extended missions up to 24 hours. The newly designed configuration increases payload capacity by integrating versatile payload bays and multiple mounting points. Its mission performance is characterized by an extended range, heightened flight speed, increased endurance, and improved operational efficiency, enabling it to transport payloads up to 120 kg without impacting its extended flight duration.

    Designed for autonomous operations, the Spark includes autonomous ground taxi capabilities and automated take-off and landing abilities, even in crosswinds of up to 25 knots. It requires only a 200m take-off strip and an 800m landing runway. Photo: Elbit Systems

    With a maximum take-off weight of 650 kg, the Spark can transport a 260 kg payload to altitudes of 22,000 ft, maintaining operations at distances of 300 km within line of sight or farther when utilizing its integrated satellite communications uplink. The aircraft is powered by a potent 100-hp aviation-certified engine coupled with a variable-pitch, three-blade tractor propeller tailored for peak efficiency. The UAS can cruise at 120 knots towards the mission zone and sustain a 55-knot loitering speed above the target area, operating the engine at low RPM to maximize efficiency and endurance. Should more power be necessary, the robust engine can contend with up to 80 knots of headwinds.

    Designed for autonomous operations, the Spark includes autonomous ground taxi capabilities and automated take-off and landing abilities, even in crosswinds of up to 25 knots. It requires only a 200m take-off strip and an 800m landing runway. Post-landing, the ground team can ready the UAS for its next mission within an hour, thanks to predictive maintenance and automated pre-flight protocols. Such efficiency leads to a lower Life Cycle Cost (LCC). The Spark can carry multiple advanced payloads, such as high-definition electro-optics (EO) for intelligence, persistent surveillance, reconnaissance missions, radar, and SIGINT systems, and is compatible with payloads currently used by the Hermes 450 and 900.

    Future Plans

    Development and flight testing of the Hermes 650 Spark is in progress, with the first deliveries forecasted for the following year. Upon deployment, it is expected to progressively replace Hermes 450 units in operational use for over three decades. Similarly to its predecessors, the Spark is designed to integrate seamlessly into mixed fleets alongside the Hermes 900 MALE UAS and the Starliner, ensuring high operational safety, resilience, and adaptability across various weather conditions to meet various mission demands. This integration is supported using standardized payloads, control systems, and ground support equipment.

    In response to the necessity for UAS operation in civilian airspace, the Hermes 650 Spark has been developed from the ground up to meet NATO STANAG 4671 regulations, which stipulate the criteria for certifiable UAS. This strategy was initially realized with the company’s Starliner, developed from the Hermes 900, which achieved the distinction of being the first MALE UAS to be granted such certification in 2022.

    Development and flight testing of the Hermes 650 Spark are in progress, with the first deliveries forecasted for the following year. Upon deployment, it is expected to progressively replace Hermes 450 units in operational use for over three decades. Photo: Elbit Systems

    Protected: WindGuard: the Heartbeat of Active Protection Systems

    The ELM-2133 Windguard radar. The core sensor for Active Protection System. Photo: IAI

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    EDGE and Milrem Robotics to Field a UAE Robotic Force

    UAE to field 60 UGVs from Milrem Robotics, including Type X RCVs and two versions of THeMIS UGVs. Photo: Milrem Robotics, by Ago Gaškov

    Milrem Robotics, an Estonian company partly owned by the UAE based EDGE Group will equip the UAE Armed Forces with 60 Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), according to an official announcement released yesterday at the colsong day of the UMEX exhibition in Dubai and the International Armored Vehicles (IAV2024) conference in London, today. The contract includes 40 units of Milrem’s THeMIS UGVs and 20 units of the larger, tracked Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV, formally known as TypeX) currently under development. The equipment will be part of the first operational trail program with the UAE armed forces, expected to be followed by a larger order on completion.

    Under the terms of the contract, Milrem Robotics will lead an experimentation and trial program aimed at integrating unmanned ground capabilities into the UAE Armed Forces’ arsenal. This initiative is a significant step towards enhancing the Armed Forces’ combat capabilities through the deployment of THeMIS UGVs and tracked RCVs, which are both equipped with advanced autonomy features, third party payloads and high-quality communication solutions.

    “EDGE Group’s investment in Milrem Robotics has opened new avenues for us in the region, further expanding our international growth and market presence.” Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics said. “This project highlights the strategic value of incorporating advanced robotic systems into force structure, thereby enhancing their combat capabilities and operational efficiency.”

    THeMIS UGVs recently delivered to the Thai Army are armed with M230LF cannon (30x113mm) mounted on an EOS weapon station.

    The TypeX RCV weighs 12 tons and can carry a payload weight of up to four tons. At a weight of 1,630 kg, THeMIS carries a maximum payload of 1.2 tons. Both platforms will be equipped with 30mm guns. The tracked RCVs will receive an armored turret carrying the 30x173mm MK44 cannon, while the lighter THeMIS Combat units will be equipped with a weapon station mounting 30x113mm M230LF Remote Weapon Stations and with Indirect Fire Systems. THeMIS Observe units will be equipped with a mast-mounted radar and camera systems, including shot detection capabilities.

    Under the contract Milrem Robotics will provide comprehensive training and supervision to ensure the relevant personnel achieve a satisfactory skill level in operating combat unmanned ground systems.

    Milrem Robotics introduced a technology demonstrator of an 8×8 wheeled RCV to be unveiled next year. Photo: Defense-Update

    At the IAV 2024 event Milrem Robotics unveiled a new 8×8 wheeled platform developed for an international customer, believed to be EDGE. At the IDEX exhibition EDGE displayed a larger 8×8 RCV weighing 23 tons. This platform is believed to be replaced by the new platform currently under development at Milrem, that will weigh only 12 tons, and carry 3-5 tons of payload. At a length of six meters, width and height of 2.7 meters, the new wheeled platform will provide a similar surface area as the TypeX, but is expected to be more affordable than the Tracked RCV, be faster on road (110 km/h, compared to 80 km/h of TypeX), with maximum 50 km/h off road speed. Such an RCV will weigh about half the weight as comparable manned vehicle, but has the same, or even better performance, positioning it as an effective support platform for mechanized formations.

    USMC Receives the First Production ACV Command Vehicle (ACV-C)

    BAE Systems delivers first production ACV-C APC to the US Marine Corps. Photo: BAE Systems

    BAE Systems delivered the first Amphibious Combat Vehicle Command and Control (ACV-C) variant under the full-rate production contract to the U.S. Marine Corps. The ACV-C will provide Marines with a mobile command center that enables them to maintain situational awareness and operations planning in the battlespace and on the move. The ACV-C is a tactical echelon command post for the U.S. Marine Corps regiment level.

    The ACV provides the Marine Corps with open-ocean and ship-to-objective amphibious capability and improves land mobility and survivability, with ample growth capacity and flexibility to incorporate and adapt future technologies.

    The ACV-C is a mission-role variant in the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) family of vehicles. It shares a common hull, powertrain, drivetrain, water propulsion system, and survivability suite with the baseline Amphibious Combat Vehicle – Personnel variant (ACV-P) and integrates seven radios to allow secure voice and data communications and a larger battery pack to support silent watch operations.

    U.S. Marines assigned to the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division conduct waterborne training with the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) from aboard amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), March 9. Anchorage is underway conducting routine operations in the U.S. 3rd Fleet. Photo: USMC

    To date, ACV has been customized in four configurations and is maintaining built-in growth capacity to integrate future technologies, including new battle management capabilities, advanced communications, multi-domain targeting management, beyond-line-of-sight sensors, and Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) with autonomous and unmanned systems.

    The Marine Corps and BAE Systems entered full-rate production on the ACV program with a contract award in December 2020. Currently, two of the four ACV variants are in production at the BAE Systems facility in York, Pennsylvania: the ACV Personnel carrier variant (ACV-P), which provides transport for 13 combat-loaded Marines and three crew, and the new ACV-C variant. Production Representative Test Vehicles (PRTVs) currently in production are the ACV 30mm (ACV-30). ACV-30 is armed with a 30mm Remote Turret System that provides the lethality and protection Marines need while leaving ample room for troop capacity and payload.

     

    ACV-30 vehicle is equipped with the Kongsberg RT20 remote weapon station mounting the 30mm Bushmaster chain gun. Photo: BAE Systems

    In 2022, BAE received a $88 contract to build production representative ACV-30 vehicles for troop evaluation and testing. The ACV-30 mounts a stabilized, medium-caliber Remote Turret System manufactured by KONGSBERG. The 30mm RT-20 is a remotely controlled and operated weapons system that enhances crew protection. The remote turret eliminates the space requirement of legacy lethality systems. It provides more space to transport troops or mission essential equipment and reduces weight for better mobility.

    The fourth variant is the recovery variant (ACV-R), which is designed to provide field-level maintenance support for the ACV formations. In 2022, the company received a $34.9 million contract to develop this variant.

    The ACV-R will be used for recovery and support of ACV formations. Illustration: BAE Systems

    Ukraine, Estonia Share Operational Experience with THeMIS UGVs

    THeMIS UGV delivered to Ukraine, equipped with French CNIM, for route clearance and demining operations. Photo: Milram Robotics

    THeMIS unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) delivered by Estonian based Milrem Robotics company to the Ukrainian armed forces have undergone extensive operations in the combat zone, this deployment has already yielding initial user experience shared with the company.

    Milrem Robotics recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Ukrainian Defense Industry (UDI), which consolidates national defence industry companies, that details several development and manufacturing activities between the company and the members of UDI. According to the agreement, the parties will start strategic cooperation in identifying Ukraine’s requirements and use cases for robotic systems which can enhance the capabilities of Ukraine’s armed units in the ongoing war and after the war.

    “The UGVs delivered to Ukraine are being used to clear areas from anti-tank mines as well as unexploded ordnances (UXOs), transporting equipment to areas that are not accessible with conventional vehicles or where the risk of losing that equipment is high,” said Cpt (res) Jüri Pajuste, in charge of the Ukrainian program in Milrem Robotics, naming a few use-cases based on information gathered from the end-user. “However, the most important benefit comes not from avoiding the loss of equipment but the loss of life,” Pajuste added.

    Sever multipurpose THeMIS UGVs delivered to Ukraine were used for are equipped for cargo delivery and casualties evacuation, The THeMIS seen here equipped with two stretchers. Photo:Milrem Robotics
    Milrem Robotics delivered 14 THeMIS UGVs to Ukraine. Seven of the systems are intended to carry cargo and for casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and seven, equipped with payloads from the French CNIM, for route clearance and demining operations. The THeMIS’ have also been used by engineers to carry anti-tank mines to accelerate mining operations. “Casualty evacuation and route clearance are two labour-intensive activities where soldiers performing these tasks immediately become targets for the enemy. UGVs, on the other hand, can be operated from a distance, keeping the soldiers in a safe location,” Pajuste added.

    “The operators of the UGVs noted that during the bezdorizhzhia, as the muddy season is referred to in Ukrainian, the THeMIS can act as a re-supply vehicle instead of heavy trucks that tend to get stuck. Also, the small size and low height of the UGV makes its discovery by the enemy difficult and that has increased its survivability,“ Pajuste said.

    Building on the industrial cooperation agreement, the companies involved will integrate Ukraine’s battlefield experience into Milrem Robotics’ existing robotic and autonomous systems and develop new products to create Ukraine’s manned and unmanned multi-domain capabilities. Additionally, the parties will investigate manufacturing THeMIS Combat (with HMG and antitank capabilities), Combat Engineering (mine detection and demining), CASEVAC unmanned ground vehicles and other Milrem Robotics’ products in Ukraine.

    Milrem Robotics delivered the UGVs to Ukraine in mid 2023, under a partnership support agreement with German partner company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) of the KNDS Franco-German group. The THeMIS UGV is already part of different programs in 16 countries, including eight NATO members: Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK, and the US.

    Rheinmetall Tests Skyranger 30A1 VSHORAD Firepower

    Skyranger 30A1 turret undergoing firing trials at the Ochsenboden proving ground in Switzerland. Photo: Rheinmetall

    Rheinmetall’s mobile Skyranger 30 air defence system has reached a key milestone on the road to series production. In December 2023, the A1 configuration of the Skyranger 30 underwent a successful testing and live-fire campaign at the Group’s Ochsenboden proving ground in Switzerland, in which the system had to prove itself in stationary and mobile modes.

    The Skyranger 30 A1 is a development testbed whose purpose is to pave the way for total system qualification of the Skyranger 30 A3 in mid-2024. The A1’s flexible design enables efficient testing and optimization of multiple customer variants with different radars and effectors. The compact design of the turret allows integration into a wide variety of manned and unmanned platforms. The system weighs up to 2.5 tons and is currently being developed for at least three platforms.

    As recently as December 2023, Hungary contracted with Rheinmetall to develop a concept for a Skyranger 30 turret for the future air defence variant of the tracked Lynx KF41 tracked armoured vehicle. Two other user NATO nations, Denmark and Germany, also plan to procure the Skyranger 30, which in both cases will be mounted on different wheeled armoured vehicles. The German Army plans to purchase about 20 Systems on GTK Boxer vehicles. The Danish MOD has selected the Skyranger 30 to be mounted on 15 Danish Mowag Piranha V wheeled APC. The system will mount the gun and yet unspecified VSHORAD missile systems.

    The central component of the Skyranger 30 is the 30mmx173 KCE revolver cannon, whose immense firepower and precision have been impressively demonstrated under the most adverse weather conditions. The cannon is equipped with a programmable fuse setter designed to support AHEAD scatterable ammunition, optimized for anti-aircraft and anti-drone missions. The effective range of the cannon is 3000 meters, complemented by the VSHORAD missile’s range of 5-8 km, depending on the type, terrain and engagement profile. Additional effectors under consideration, include electronic attack (EA), data link signal interceptors and RF-jammers to neutralize reconnaissance or remotely guided UAVs. Rough UAVs, (‘black’ or ‘quiet’ platforms that are not vulnerable to external countermeasures) will be engaged by the gun or missiles.

    As a modern VSHORAD gun/missile system, Skyranger closes a critical capability gap in mobile air defence. The Skyranger 30 A3 will decisively counter current and future aerial threats – including drones – enabling ground troops to focus on their actual mission.

    Rafael Tests the Spyder AiO Short Range Air Defense System

    Spyder AiO performing an intercept test in the southern Negev desert in Israel, 2024. Photo: Rafael

    Against the ongoing regional Mid-East conflict, RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems of Israel completed a pivotal SPYDER air-defense system test in its innovative All in One (AiO) configuration. The test featured an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) interception under challenging operational conditions, with the SPYDER system achieving a precise and effective defense against the evolving aerial threats representing those encountered by Israel in recent combat engagements.

    The SPYDER, a product of RAFAEL, is utilized operationally by over ten military forces globally. It offers robust air defense against various threats, including missiles, UAVs, aircraft, helicopters, and tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs). The system utilizes PYTHON and Derby interceptor missiles, also manufactured by RAFAEL. These truck-mounted launchers use an external radar and an integrated electro-optical system for target acquisition. The newly introduced AiO configuration enhances the SPYDER by integrating a 360-degree coverage radar with the electro-optical systems mounted onto a single elevated mast. This setup also includes an advanced command and control system on the same mobile platform, endowing the SPYDER AiO with superior mobility and autonomous engagement capabilities. The integrated sensors enable operation in all weather conditions, both day and night.

    The SPYDER AiO’s advanced AESA radars can operate autonomously or be integrated into a higher echelon command and control (C2) structure. Featuring a search-on-the-move capability, it can swiftly transition to a fire-on-the-halt mode upon detecting threats or receiving an engagement command. The transition from mobility to combat readiness – including vehicle stabilization, radar deployment, and launcher positioning – is completed in approximately three minutes. The system can carry up to eight interceptors and simultaneously engage up to four targets. The Derby interceptors use RF seekers to engage their targets, while the Python 5 uses electro-optical seekers and proximity fuse to defeat targets at close range. The test video shows a top-down target engagement emphasizing Python’s capability to seek targets at low altitudes.

    The recent test in Israel demonstrated the SPYDER AiO’s prowess, where it successfully neutralized a UAV with a Python surface-to-air interceptor in a complex operational setting. The test was performed in collaboration with the Israel Ministry of Defense Directorate for Defense Research and Development (DR&D), indicating Israel’s defense establishment in this new capability. Until now, the Spyder’s development has been conducted exclusively by Rafael.

    Since the onset of the Iron Swords conflict on October 7, 2023, Israel has faced a barrage of attacks involving ballistic missiles, rockets, cruise missiles, and drones. The nation’s multi-layered defense array, comprising Arrow, David’s Sling, Iron Dome, and Patriot systems, has largely countered these assaults. However, over the past year, the increasing use of One-Way Attack UAVs (OWA UAVs) in Russian and Ukrainian operations has highlighted a critical vulnerability. This scenario underscores the strategic importance of the SPYDER AiO system in addressing OWA UAV threats, given its high mobility, rapid deployment, self-sustainability, and minimized operational footprint.

    The AiO configuration safeguards key assets, including mobile troops and sensitive locations. It effectively counters various aerial threats like fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles, and precision-guided munitions. With its dual interceptor types, the Spyder AiO offers an operational range of 15 to 40 km and an altitude coverage extending up to 9 km.

    Unlike the original Spyder, which uses a separate rotating radar, RAFAEL’s Spyder AiO system uses Leonardo’s exMHR mounted on the same platform with the launchers, power generator, and C3 element. Photo: Leonardo RADA

    DARPA’s X-65 Test Plane Moves to Manufacturing Phase

    By 2025 DARPA intends to fly a 7,000-pound X-plane that addresses the two primary technical hurdles of incorporation of AFC into a full-scale aircraft and reliance on it for controlled flight. Image: Aurora Flight Sciences

    Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, has begun manufacturing work on a new X-plane for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. This latest phase follows completing the critical design review (CDR) for the experimental aircraft, designated X-65.

    X-65 is purpose-designed for testing and demonstrating Active Flow Control (AFC) for multiple effects, including flight control at tactical speeds and performance enhancement across the flight envelope. Active flow control could improve aircraft performance by removing jointed surfaces such as rudder, ailerons, flaps, and canards, which drive design configurations that increase weight and mechanical complexity. Demonstrating AFC for stability and control in flight would help open the design trade space for future military and commercial applications.

    The AFC system supplies pressurized air to fourteen AFC effectors embedded across all flying surfaces, including multiple wing sweeps. The aircraft is configured to be modular, featuring replaceable outboard wings and swappable AFC effectors, which allows for future testing of additional AFC designs.

    Active flow control technology has the potential to replace traditional flaps and rudders, which are used to maneuver most aircraft today. AFC may deliver benefits in aerodynamics, weight, and mechanical complexity. X-65 is designed to demonstrate the benefits of AFC for both commercial and military applications.

    Component tooling and part fabrication for the 30 ft wingspan, uncrewed X-plane are now underway at Aurora facilities in West Virginia and Mississippi. Plans include building the airframe at Aurora, West Virginia, and system integration and ground testing at Aurora’s headquarters in Manassas, Virginia. The program would culminate in flight tests of the full-scale, 7000 lb. X-65 aircraft at speeds up to Mach 0.7. Flight testing is targeted for the summer of 2025.

    With a modular wing section and modular AFC effectors, the X-65 will support future research and development of novel aerodynamic controls. Image: Aurora Flight Sciences.

    SPeed and Runway INdependent Technologies (SPRINT)

    In November 2023, Aurora Flight Sciences was selected for phase 1 of another DARPA X-plane X-Plane demonstration project, the SPeed and Runway INdependent Technologies (SPRINT). Other companies selected to provide SPRINT conceptual designs include Bell Textron, Inc., Northrop Grumman Aeronautic Systems, and Piasecki Aircraft Corporation. The SPRINT program aims to design, build, and fly an X-Plane to demonstrate technologies and integrated concepts necessary for a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence. This initial award funds work to reach a conceptual design review and includes an executable option to continue to work through a preliminary design review.

    Aurora is designing a high lift, low drag fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator aircraft that integrates a blended wing body platform, with embedded engines and moderate sweep, with a vertical flight design comprised of embedded lift fans linked to the engines via mechanical drives. The aircraft would deliver game-changing air mobility capability by combining cruise at over 450 KTAS with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) in a single platform. Image: Aurora Flight Sciences

    Under this award, Aurora is designing a high lift, low drag fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator aircraft that integrates a blended wing body platform, with embedded engines and moderate sweep, with a vertical flight design comprised of embedded lift fans linked to the engines via mechanical drives. The aircraft would deliver game-changing air mobility capability by combining cruise at over 450 KTAS with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) in a single platform.

    The combined Aurora and Boeing teams bring deep experience in agile vehicle prototyping, vertical lift and cruise transition technology, and blended wing body aero performance. The program will build on past flight programs like the Boeing X-48 blended wing body aircraft and the Aurora Excalibur UAS that combined jet-borne vertical lift with three electric, louvered lift fans that would retract into the wing in forward flight.

    Design work will occur at Aurora and Boeing facilities across multiple states, including Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The program targets the X-Plane demonstrator’s first flight within 42 months.

    Transforming Aerospace and Defense: The AI Revolution

    AI-generated image by Midjourney AI, Defense-Update.

    The aerospace and defense sectors are experiencing a transformative shift, largely driven by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies into sensors, weapons, and information systems designed for the military. In an environment where precision, rapid decision-making, and robustness are crucial, AI/ML has emerged as a key technology, accelerating situational understanding and decision-making and improving operational efficiency. These techniques make military operations more likely to overcome the ‘fog of war,’ with senses and situational understanding sharpened by AI/ML based on the endless and continuous collection of signals rather than the indications visible to the human eye. The unique requirements of these sectors, such as multi-domain operation, resilience under extreme conditions, high-stakes decision-making, interoperability, and advanced security measures, set the stage for AI to make a significant impact.

    Market Drivers and Unique Requirements

    Several key factors drive the aerospace and defense sector’s pivot towards AI:

    1. Rapid and Accurate Decision-Making: Military operations are decisive in time and space. The ability of AI systems to quickly process and analyze vast amounts of data is crucial for strategic and operational decisions in real time. Tapping information from different sources and domains and rapidly fusing that data provides decision-makers the actional intelligence that can be implemented within short cycles to create the desired effect within the allocated time and space.

    2. Resilience and Reliability: AI applications must perform consistently in diverse and challenging environments; their recommendation and responses must be trustable, reliable, and free from ‘hallucinations’ encountered by the commercial Large Language Models (LLMs). Confidence and trust are the most important factors in military AI systems, enabling users to leverage those systems to their highest value. Safety and confidence should not be designing features but part of the baseline infrastructure of military AI systems. Physical safety and security should also be considered by employing distributed systems, edge processing, and robust and resilient networking to keep AI ready and available to support operational forces anywhere and anytime.

    3. Ethical and Controlled Automation: Regardless of the checks and balances that enable human trust, the high stakes in military systems necessitate that AI systems incorporate and adhere to ethical standards and allow for human oversight without slowing down the entire process. Although ‘Ethical Standards’ is a fluid term that depends on the legal, cultural, religious, and social background of the designer and user, it defines the ‘playing ground’ and boundaries for AI operations, just as the Law of War defines what warfighters can or cannot do in wartime.

    4. Advanced Security Measures: Given the sensitive nature of defense operations, AI systems must feature unparalleled cybersecurity capabilities by eliminating adverse and malicious actions in the training and operation of the systems. AI systems depend on networks, information, data feeds, and the algorithms embedded through their training. Tampering with these foundations during the design or training or maliciously engaging the systems in their operational phase may cause enormous risks with unexpected consequences to the user and dependent systems. Therefore, safety measures from the early design phase should be considered, including risk detection, aversion, and response.

    Leading Companies and Their Impact

    We studied the offerings from dozens of companies, viewed demonstrations, and were briefed by officials at exhibitions and conferences. Through our research, we scanned the market for AI systems designed for military operations or capable of supporting military uses. We conducted our research using the best available AI tools, but even this required extensive human analysis to provide the usable information that would meet our standards. In the first part, we pick five AI systems that excel in Military Operations; follow-up articles will expand this review to the following sectors:

    • Military Operations
    • Aerospace
    • Sensors
    • Land Combat Systems
    • Naval Warfare
    • Homeland Security

    AI Systems for Military Operations

    Each solution has its merit, and presenting them all would be futile. Therefore, we limited our list to five entries and presented the reasons for our selection and the market impact of the selected solutions.

    Disclaimer: the images shown on this page were AI-generated by Midjourney for Defense-Update; they are used for illustrative purposes and don’t depict the systems they are associated with.

    AI Factory from Lockheed Martin. AI-created Image by Midjourney and Defense-UpdateLockheed Martin
    Why Chosen: As an industry leader, Lockheed Martin exemplifies the integration of AI across a wide spectrum of defense applications. Their AI Factory initiative showcases their commitment to advancing AI/ML technology in the sector. It provides a secure end-to-end, modular ecosystem to train, deploy, and sustain trusted artificial intelligence solutions. Capabilities focus on automation from development through deployment and sustainment, applying MLOps solutions (Machine Learning Operations) to validate, explain, secure, and monitor all machine learning life cycle phases, and creating reference architectures and components that can be reused across programs.

    Impact: Lockheed Martin influences global defense strategies through its AI-driven solutions, from combat aircraft to space exploration, setting industry standards and paving the way for future technological advancements.

    Depiction of enterprise AI system for defense, created by Midjourney, for Defense-UpdatePalantir Technologies
    Why Chosen: Palantir is pivotal in big data analytics, providing AI platforms for intelligence gathering and operational planning. Their AIP platform provides the foundation for integrative solutions empowering and synchronizing military organizations by presenting the relevant information to decision-makers, enhancing information with available sensors, and presenting decision-makers with relevant, actionable responses based on the understanding of information, red and blue forces tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP).

    Impact: Palantir AIP combines the power of large language models and cutting-edge AI to activate data and models, harnessing information from the most highly sensitive environments in a secure, legal, and ethical way. Their systems enable data-driven decision-making in complex defense environments, leveraging sources’ traceability and trusted reasoning, illustrating AI’s growing importance in operational planning and intelligence operations.

    Depiction of Lattice AI system utilized for manned-unmanned teaming and mobile autonomy, illustrationby created by Midjourney AI for Defense-UpdateAnduril Industries
    Why Chosen: Anduril Industries is at the forefront of integrating AI in autonomous systems and surveillance technologies, transforming traditional defense strategies to embrace trusted, manned-unmanned operational capabilities.

    Impact: Their mission autonomy approach has evolved from border security and situational awareness. Their Lattice AI operating system redefines defense approaches by introducing distributed mission autonomy employing numerous unmanned systems operated by small human teams. The core software provides sensor fusion, target identification and tracking, intelligent networking, command, and control. Unlike other solutions, Anduril’s approach is to expand the scope of their AI-reach beyond the Lattice core by adding actionable enablers – in the security domain, these were the Sentry sensor, Anvil, and Roadrunner countermeasures. Employed in offensive strike missions, such as the US Army Air Launched Effects, the system empowers the Altius long endurance sensor, Fury Attritable aircraft, and Altius 700M effectors to harness Anduril’s mobile autonomy concept to the extreme. As an integrated solution, it enables humans to employ autonomous systems by extending reach, capabilities, and situational awareness while enabling warfighters to make better decisions faster.

    C3.AI Readiness solution leverages AI for predictive maintenance. AI Image by Midjourney for Defense-Update.

    C3.ai
    Why Chosen: C3.ai stands out for its strategy of integrating various AI tools into AI-Readiness, a secure, unified platform featuring trustable, resilient, and interoperable scalable systems that connect and manage complex and disparate assets throughout their life cycles.

    Impact: By enhancing decision-making and operational efficiency, C3.ai’s solutions optimize resource management and maintenance schedules, demonstrating AI’s role in improving defense assets’ operational availability and lifespan while maintaining high-security standards. To support the introduction of AI-empowered solutions, the company provides an AI development studio to accelerate technology assessment to days and application development and deployment in weeks and months rather than years.

    An image depicting the AI Backbone developed for the Future Air Combat System of systems. An AI-generated image by Midjourney for Defense-UpdateHelsing
    Why Chosen: Helsing represents the new wave of defense start-ups focusing on specialized AI applications, their backing by major European defense players underscores Helsing’s potential and influence in the AI defense market.

    Impact: Helsing’s AI solutions in intelligence analysis and decision support utilize advanced object recognition and AI-empowered EW techniques, along with other partner solutions, are bound to be part of the AI backbone for the mission system, the ambitious Future Air Combat Systems (FCAS). Tailored for modern warfare, Helsing is on course to provide the future’s unique AI defense and aerospace applications. Helsing has been active in Ukraine since 2022, providing capabilities and technology for frontline operations.

    Conclusion
    As demonstrated by these leading companies, the aerospace and defense sectors are heading towards an AI-centric future. The landscape is diverse and rapidly evolving. Each company shapes the market, technology, and future of AI in unique ways, underlining AI’s transformative impact on global defense and aerospace strategies. This trend enhances current capabilities and opens new possibilities in military and space operations, marking a new era in defense technology.

    AI Factory – by Lockheed Martin

    AI Factory from Lockheed Martin. AI-created Image by Midjourney and Defense-Update

    Lockheed Martin’s AI Factory is an initiative to accelerate the development and integration of AI across the company’s aerospace and defense products. The core function of the AI Factory is to centralize AI development, providing a shared space where AI experts and engineers collaborate to build AI solutions tailored for specific defense applications. The AI Factory leverages advanced algorithms, machine learning, and neural networks to enhance systems capabilities, making them more efficient, effective, and adaptable to rapidly changing combat and exploration scenarios.

    What sets the AI Factory apart is its comprehensive approach that spans from algorithm development to deployment and monitoring. Unlike traditional AI development environments, the AI Factory focuses on rapid prototyping and iterative testing, ensuring that AI solutions are innovative, practical, and immediately applicable to defense scenarios. This approach allows for quick adaptation to the changing needs of military operations, offering a blend of agility and reliability.

    Palantir’s AIP (Advanced Intelligence Platform)

    Depiction of enterprise AI system for defense, created by Midjourney, for Defense-Update

    Palantir’s Advanced Intelligence Platform (AIP) streamlines the creation and deployment of AI-driven solutions within defense and intelligence operations. The platform enables seamless integration of heterogeneous data, from real-time streams to geospatial inputs, within a secure and comprehensible framework. Its sophisticated logic processing supports various computational needs, from deterministic calculations to complex machine learning models, all aligned to drive critical decision-making processes.

    AIP’s approach to application development is geared toward speed and agility, allowing users to develop, test, and deploy AI functionalities without extensive coding. The platform’s security features are deeply ingrained, offering granular AI Guardrails that govern every aspect of the system, ensuring robust security and auditing. The platform allows for the examination and refinement of AI-driven activities before their execution but also enables the definition of boundaries within which AI can operate autonomously. This structured yet flexible environment ensures that AI tools and automation are high-performing and closely monitored.

    With AIP, Palantir provides an ecosystem where continuous feedback enhances AI operations, ensuring that the intelligence platform evolves and adapts to the ever-changing landscape of defense needs. This ensures that users, from operational analysts to technical developers, can leverage AI to its full potential, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of their missions.

    Anduril’s Lattice AI

    Depiction of Lattice AI system utilized for manned-unmanned teaming and mobile autonomy, illustrationby created by Midjourney AI for Defense-Update

    Anduril’s Lattice AI represents a fresh approach to autonomous systems and surveillance in the defense sector. Lattice AI is an advanced software platform that powers Anduril’s suite of defense solutions, enabling them to function as an integrated ecosystem. This platform is designed to process vast amounts of sensor data in real-time, providing a comprehensive situational awareness crucial for modern military operations.

    Lattice AI uses data from various sources, including drones, ground sensors, and satellite feeds, to create a real-time, 3D battlefield map. This enables defense forces to detect, classify, and track threats with unprecedented accuracy and speed. The platform’s AI algorithms can make autonomous decisions, directing dependent systems to investigate areas of interest or respond to threats without human intervention.

    A key aspect of Lattice AI is its scalability and adaptability. It can be deployed across various environments, from border security operations to conflict zones, and is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing military systems and workflows.

    C3’s AI-Readiness

    C3.AI Readiness solution leverages AI for predictive maintenance. AI Image by Midjourney for Defense-Update.

    C3.ai’s AI-Readiness is a comprehensive platform transforming support and maintenance in aerospace and defense operations and logistics. This platform leverages AI and machine learning to collect and interpret operational and maintenance data, predict potential equipment failures before they happen, and recommend optimal maintenance schedules to enhance the reliability and availability of critical military assets significantly.

    AI-Readiness analyzes historical maintenance data, sensor inputs, and operational parameters to identify patterns that precede equipment failures. Doing so allows defense organizations to shift from reactive maintenance strategies to a proactive approach, optimizing repair schedules and reducing downtime. The platform’s capability to aggregate and analyze data from multiple sources and its focus on actionable insights sets it apart. This enables defense organizations to move beyond reactive maintenance, reducing downtime and extending the lifespan of critical assets.

    Helsing’s AI Backbone for FCAS

    An image depicting the AI Backbone developed for the Future Air Combat System of systems. An AI-generated image by Midjourney for Defense-Update

    Helsing is part of the HIS consortium developing the AI backbone for the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS). Helsing operates alongside Schonhofer Sales and Engineering GmbH and IBM Germany. The FCAS initiative aims to integrate a new generation of manned fighters with a network of unmanned systems and highly connected aircraft. Helsing’s role is pivotal in providing the AI development infrastructure that will reduce pilot workload and enhance the operational capability of remote carriers and munitions. SS&E has expertise in real-time situational awareness, analytics, AI, and management of complex data and data formats, while IBM will provide secure cloud technologies for the program.

    The AI backbone is not just a singular system but a foundational technology supporting the air force’s cross-functional capabilities with AI. The AI backbone will integrate distributed ‘edge AI’ capabilities embedded in each FCAS member, where data is collected, shared across the secure cloud, and orchestrated by AI algorithms to distribute a common operating picture and actionable decisions and commands to all players across the network. This proximity to data sources enables rapid, real-time analytics and decision-making, crucial for modern warfare where speed is a tactical advantage.

    The AI backbone will also contribute to the Next Generation Weapons System National Research and Technology project, the 6th Generation air platform, part of the broader FCAS program. This project aims to develop technologies to give the German Air Force and its European partners an edge in AI capabilities.