Concerned about the emerging threat of unmanned aircraft, the US Army is canvassing American defence contractors for information on systems that can detect, classify and destroy drones of varying sizes.
According to the request for information (RFI), the army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) is open to both “kinetic and non-kinetic options” – the latter referring to lasers.
The US Navy has already placed a laser weapon system demonstrator aboard the destroyer USS Dewey and tested the weapon against target drones in June 2012. The Army has likewise tested a vehicle-mounted Boeing high energy laser mobile demonstrator against mortar rounds and drones. However, there is no programme of record among the services to develop such a directed energy weapon.
Another interest of ARMDEC is that proposed systems be able to operate at both at the brigade-and-above and brigade-and-below echelons, which have their own network connectivity issues and levels of situational awareness.
The RFI, for example, notes that those at the tip of the spear resemble those homeland security operators in terms of the ad hoc nature of their deployment and size of their area of operation.
Indeed, the systems proposed should be designed for both overseas and domestic operations, the RFI states.
Contractors have until April 1 to answer the RFI, with selected respondents invited to two-day workshop starting April 30 at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
The RFI opens the acquisition phase of the army’s pursuit of a capability to defeat unmanned aircraft.
Last year, the army’s armaments research, development and engineering center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal staged an experiment.
The center integrated a fire control radar with existing weapon systems. Using a “novel warhead design”, a gun-launched munition destroyed a small-class unmanned aircraft, according to army documents.
One challenge in the fight against unmanned aircraft is the cost. The army has highly capable air defence batteries, but their cost may seem excessive if used against a small unmanned aircraft.
The ARDEC experiment focused on a “low-cost-per-kill weapon system”, the army says.