Defence contractor Dynetics has performed the first flight test of its X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) in Utah, US.

X-61A GAV is being developed under the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Gremlins programme.

The goal of Gremlins is to enhance the US Armed Forces’ operational flexibility by providing them with the capability to launch and recover a large number of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The test marks the programme’s development of Phase 3 demonstration objectives.

The flight was conducted at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City and involved the use of a C-130A aircraft operated by TBM.

It lasted for one hour and 41 minutes and saw the GAV demonstrate one captive-carry mission on board C-130A, airborne launch and free flight.

The objectives of the test were to demonstrate the successful launch of GAV from C-130, and rate capture, wing deployment, cold engine start, as well as a stable and powered flight.

Additionally, air and ground-based command and control systems were evaluated, which also included communication through a data link.

The verification of flight termination and parachute recovery of the GAV and the deployment of GAV docking arm formed part of the trials.

X-61A flew as expected, achieving all test objectives. The operational system of the flight was rendered successful.

However, the vehicle went off-track during the ground recovery sequence. This occurred due to the failure of extraction to the main chute.

Dynetics Gremlins programme manager Tim Keeter said: “The GAV flew beautifully and our command and control system kept us in total control of the GAV for the entire flight.

“The loss of our vehicle validates our decision to build five GAVs for Phase 3; we still have four remaining. Overall, I am proud to see all the hard work pay off and we are excited to continue this momentum towards the first airborne recovery in early 2020.”

In April 2018, Dynetics won the contract of Phase 3 Gremlins programme and entered the final phase of development in May 2018.