Lockheed Martin suggests wingman UAV for Poland
Lockheed Martin is aiming to offer a new UAV, based on existing systems, for the Harpi Szpon (Harpy Claw) programme in Poland.
The new UAV is also intended to meet the US requirement to replace MQ-9 Reaper systems, an RfI for which was recently released.
Both of these requirements and the future UAV (a concept image of which is pictured above) are at a nascent stage; however, Lockheed Martin officials said on 3 September that they are looking to work closely with Polish industry to create an aircraft to act as ‘wingman’ UAV support for fighter aircraft such as the F-35A Lightning II.
The UAV will have a stealthy design — potentially a flying wing similar to the RQ-170 Sentinel HALE UAS — but much of the design work will be frozen until Polish and US requirements become clearer.
The US scrapped plans to replace the MQ-9 eight years ago but in June the DoD issued an RfI to ‘research potential solutions for the Next Generation UAS ISR/Strike platform [and] potential follow-on programme’. IOC is planned for Q3 FY2031 with initial deliveries beginning in Q4 FY2030.
Jack O’Banion, Lockheed Martin vice-president of strategy and customer requirements for Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works), argued the company is well positioned to meet any requirements quickly.
‘Once we know the requirements as decided by the Polish Ministry of [National] Defence, then it can be a fast-moving programme,’ O’Banion said.
‘We are not talking about an extended decade-long programme [but] just a few years to go through contracting, development, production. That is what we are able to do but what is decided by US and Polish governments will decide this.’
Boeing is expected to fly a system of a similar class before the end of 2020. The first prototype of a Loyal Wingman large multirole UAV was delivered to the RAAF earlier this year and the aircraft also serves as the foundation for Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
There is no commitment from Australia to go beyond the three prototypes but, as with the Polish requirement, the platform would be designed to operate alongside F-35 aircraft.
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