Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR APR 2015 Contents 31
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 08 | APR 2015
possibility of small, tactical UAVs such as the AeroVironment
Switchblade – a man-portable, rapidly deployable loitering munition
for use against beyond-line-of-sight targets out to around 10km. Ef-
fectively a miniature intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
(ISR) and weaponised platform in one, Switchblade provides the op-
erator with real-time video and GPS co-ordinates for information
gathering, targeting or feature /object recognition.
From 2021, a persistent airborne wide area surveillance capability
is also part of the digital force picture, where it would be employed to
detect, identify and track enemy movement and activities as well as
counter improvised explosive device threats and ambushes in com-
plex, urban environments.
The lethality and survivability of the digital land force is also set for
improvement, with key acquisitions from 2020 including additional
M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT) and upgrades to the tank
ARMY’S FUTURE AIR MOBILITY VISION
AeroVironment’s Switchblade is designed to provide
the warfighter with a man-portable, rapidly deployable,
loitering munition for use against beyond-line-of-sight
This miniature intelligence, surveillance, and
reconnaissance (ISR) and lethal platform can be
operated manually or autonomously. Switchblade
provides the operator with real-time video and GPS
coordinates for information gathering, targeting or
The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult
to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range.
Switchblade is fully scaleable and can be launched from
a variety of air and ground platforms.
Optional Launch Platforms
Common Ground Control Station for Raven®,
Wasp AETM and Puma AETM
10 km radius of operation
Below 500 feet AGL (ceiling >15,000 feet MSL)
Fits inside ALICE pack, approx. 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)
(includes payload, launcher and transport bag)
Self contained ground launch
Very small visual, thermal and acoustic signatures
Precision strike with very low collateral damage
Air vehicle, ground vehicle, water craft, etc.
• One man operation
• Rapidly deployable
• Loitering munition
• Effective against stationary
and moving targets
• Wave-off/recommit capability
• Precision strike capability
• Minimal collateral effects
• Able to engage NLOS targets
Switchblade is scaleable to meet multiple customer needs;
specifications shown are for the man-portable ground
launch variant only.
fleet in line with the US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC) to
sustain combat effectiveness and supportability through to 2035. To
provide battlefield mobility for the MBT force, an obstacle breaching
and bridging variant utilising the M1 chassis is also planned.
Unmanned surveillance, reconnaissance, explosive ordnance
disposal and resupply capabilities to enhance force protection are
earmarked to come on line from 2015. Noteworthy among these are
plans for a ‘Common Unmanned Ground Platform’ comprised of
a chassis that can carry lethal mission equipment packages and sen-
sors, and autonomous resupply and convoy vehicles for survivable
24/7 logistic delivery operations.
Whilst there are no obvious in-production candidate solutions for
a weaponised unmanned ground vehicle as described, the technolo-
gy and host vehicle platforms for autonomous resupply and convoy
vehicles are, on the other hand, most certainly advancing and ma-
turing. The US Army and USMC’s Autonomous Mobility Appliqué
System Joint Capability Technology Demonstrator program, for
instance, is pursuing the development of autonomous control sys-
tems for tactical vehicles and has a goal to make these capabilities
available by 2020.
Towards a Truly Joint Force
The Army’s joint force concept involves developing updated com-
mand and control, operating and combat service support (CSS)
capabilities for full exploitation of Army and joint enablers, and in-
creases to combat weight of the deployable land force by leveraging
digital networking to access joint fires intelligence, surveillance, tar-
geting and reconnaissance capabilities.
Amphibious capabilities are to be ‘rounded out’ in the short term,
providing the Amphibious Battle Group with a full armoured cav-
alry squadron, additional combat support and CSS for undertaking
amphibious operations such as UAVs, combat engineers, air defence
and amphibious assault vehicles.
One early focus will be improvements to the Army’s littoral ma-
noeuvre and sustainment systems, including:
• Fast-moving, light and medium shallow-draft vessels to simul-
taneously move troops and equipment as combat-ready units
in-theatre and deploy them with little or no reception, staging,
onward movement at undeveloped ports; and
• Follow-on sustainment through joint logistics over-the-shore op-
erations through independent landing craft, assault craft and an
amphibious beach system.
There is recognition that existing and future amphibious support
enablers such as the MRH90 helicopter and LCM-1E landing craft
will not meet the workload required for the rapid build-up of stores
and materiel ashore.
Compatible with the Landing Craft Heavy – Replacement and
LHDs, a mix of light and medium landing craft and assault craft
and an amphibious beach system to deploy and resupply forces in
the inter-tidal zone is envisioned.
This may clear the way for reinvigoration of the requirement for a
dedicated riverine craft as originally scoped under Phase 6 of Joint
Project 2048, which disappeared from the Defence Capability Plan
several years ago.
A dedicated beach recovery system that can retrieve equipment in
the surf and beach zones is also required – a capability the Australi-
an Army has never had.
Long-Range Fire Support
An enhanced land fires capability is also planned from 2018, and
seeks an all-weather, low signature system to deliver precision fire
support at ranges of 30km to 150km. The system would provide the
MCB with integral and persistent fires beyond the limited range of
the M777 towed 155mm howitzer but within the range of distribut-
ed land force operations.
Clearly pointing at a multiple launch rocket system, the capabil-
ity would be multi-role and be able to support sea strike and de-
nial functions during operations in littoral environments. It may
also be another shot by Army to introduce a mobile artillery sys-
tem in the wake of the cancellation of the Land 17 self-propelled
Candidate rocket systems would include the Lockheed
Martin M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HI-
MARS). In service with the US Army, USMC, Singapore,
United Arab Emirates and Jordan, HIMARS mates a six-
round launcher on a BAE Systems Family of Medium Tac-
tical Vehicles cab chassis and can deliver munitions out to
Protecting the land force from low and medium altitude
aerial threats such as UAVs, helicopters and rockets, artil-
lery and mortar rounds completes the joint Army plan.
From 2018, Army wants its future ground-based air de-
fence (GBAD) system to be capable of distributed kinetic
engagement of threats, synchronised with electronic attack
and networked in land and joint digital environments. The
GBAD system should also remain in touch with manoeu-
vring land combat units, suggesting a system that is vehicle
RIGHT: AeroVironment Switchblade
loitering and weaponised UAV.
LEFT: The M142 HIMARS seems to be on the near-term
shopping list for the Australian Army. Image: USMC
The Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor is competing for the US Army’s
Joint Multi-Role high-speed rotorcraft program. Image: Bell
From 2030, the Army’s aviation capability will
comprise a mix of manned and unmanned tilt-
rotor, rotary and fixed-wing platforms.
In combination, the systems will be capable
of providing reconnaissance, surveillance,
attack, escort, co-ordination of joint fires,
command and control, joint personnel
recovery, aero medical evacuation, electronic
warfare and intelligence collection, offensive
counter air, air mobility and air assault over
a combat radius of up to 1000km, while
providing persistent coverage to conventional
forces and special operations elements with
aviation task groups that can be tailored for
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