General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has conducted a demonstration of its Avenger uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod.

During the industry-funded demonstration, GA-ASI used the UAS to autonomously track and follow target aircraft over the high desert of southern California.

Legion Pod’s infrared search and track system IRST21 identified multiple fast-moving aircraft in the surrounding and transmitted the target tracking information to the Avenger’s autonomy engine.

Subsequently, the engine prioritised the targets and directed Avenger manoeuvres for target engagement.

The step is expected to advance with the development of autonomous systems that support manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) in joint all-domain operations.

GA-ASI Special Programs vice-president Chris Pehrson said: “GA-ASI is committed to developing persistent and affordable solutions to meet the challenges of air domain awareness and defensive counter air against near-peer threats.

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“The success of this Avenger/Legion Pod demonstration represents an important step toward more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft and MUM-T in a complex battlespace.”

Lockheed Martin Sensors and Global Sustainment vice-president Dave Belvin said: “This flight demonstrates a critical sensor capability that enables unmanned combat air vehicles like the Avenger to operate autonomously in Joint All-Domain Operations.

“We designed Legion Pod to passively detect and track targets for tactical fighter pilots in radar-denied environments. This capability provides the data necessary to enable unmanned vehicles to track and engage hostile airborne targets without human intervention.”

According to the GA-ASI website, Avenger is an advanced remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) system. It can operate at an altitude of more than 50,000ft at speeds up to 400KTAS with around 20 hours of endurance.

The demonstration follows a series of autonomy flight tests that started in December last year.