BAE Systems Australia CEO Ben Hudson has officially unveiled its next-generation, Australian-designed and developed armed VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) uncrewed air system (UAS).
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BAE Systems Australia has partnered with Perth-based Innovaero, with the industry collaboration combining BAE Systems’ global expertise in autonomous platforms and its vehicle management system (VMS) technology with Innovaero’s knowledge of aeronautical product design and manufacture in the Australian market.
The hybrid, tandem wing, multi-domain and multi-role UAS capability STRIX could be used for a variety of missions including air-to-ground strike against hostile targets and persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) — with the company anticipating that the platform could also act as a “loyal wingman” for military helicopters.
BAE Systems Australia chief executive officer Ben Hudson said at the official unveiling of the platform at Avalon 2023, “STRIX leverages existing, proven technologies to provide an affordable and cost effective capability that is mission-configurable and upgradable in response to emerging technologies or threats.”
The airframe is designed to carry up to a 160-kilogram payload over 800 kilometres, with STRIX to be capable of operating in high-risk environments — the platform incorporates a collapsed footprint of 2.6m x 4.5m, it could be easily transported in a standard shipping container.
Meanwhile, its VTOL capability means STRIX could be used without relying on an airfield, with the platform also capable of operating from a helicopter to expand the mission set and protect aircrew in high-threat environments.
“STRIX could be ready for operational service as soon as 2026 and work is already underway on a STRIX prototype. We’re excited that this is the first UAS of its kind to be developed in Australia and look forward to working with partners across the country to deliver this capability to customers,” Hudson added.
STRIX will look to increase Australian sovereign capability by leveraging domestic expertise, such as Innovaero’s aircraft concept design and rapid prototyping. There will also be opportunities for wider Australian small and medium-sized enterprises and academia to get involved in the development, delivery, and flight test of the prototype.
STRIX will have the capacity to accommodate a range of munition types, including those currently in service with the Australian Defence Force.
BAE Systems Australia will also deliver a new low-cost precision-guided munition, known as RAZER, which could be integrated onto the platform to complement STRIX’s strike capability.
The RAZER munition is a low cost, air-launched precision-guided munition that is designed to transform a 40–50-kilogram standard non-guided munition into a precision air-launched weapon at low cost. The RAZER system consists of a wing/body kit and tail unit equipped with a powered GPS/INS guidance control and navigation system, aimed at operations from uncrewed combat air vehicles (UCAV) and rotary wing aircraft.
Hudson added, “RAZER can meet urgent local and overseas demand for low-cost sovereign munition solutions that could be deployed from the air. It could deliver a powerful and affordable battlefield strike capability for users globally.”
The ability to deploy RAZER from an airborne platform and glide to target would dramatically increase the weapon’s range and provide significant stand-off range for the launch platform.
Currently, there is significant gap between inexpensive, short-range, land-based weapons of this calibre and the expensive, long-range, air-launched weapon systems.
BAE Systems’ Battlespace Integrated Solutions team has developed RAZER as payload for UCAVs and helicopters and is moving through a development process that will see the munition become a sovereign capability delivered by its local manufacturing operations.
Project scope encompasses development, acquisition, and testing of software, hardware, mechanical subsystems and other system elements aspects of this system over coming months to enable effective operation in air and maritime environments.
The market potential of the RAZER LCPGM is broad, spanning a multitude of users, including Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, and others.
BAE Systems is Australia’s most versatile defence and security company. From air and maritime sustainment to shipbuilding, they have a long and proud heritage of providing advanced defence technology which protects both people and national security, keeping critical information and infrastructure secure.