US Department of Defense announces cruise missile development projects

The US Department of Defense has announced that its multi-year Low-Cost Cruise Missile (LCCM) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) project has moved three primary technologies to programmes of record or development projects. The LCCM JCTD was created to advance a decentralised autonomy module for low-cost, conventional, collaborative cruise missiles. The integrated management team has developed a new air vehicle and launcher, an autonomy software module and a jam-resistant datalink.

The air vehicle, the Coyote Block III, was improved and the launcher was developed with Raytheon Missiles & Defense; the autonomy software module with the Georgia Tech Research Institute; and the datalink with L-3 Harris.

“This successful transition shows the great value of the JCTD programme,” said Jon Lazar, acting director of prototypes and experiments. “By working closely with our industry partners and combatant command operators, we delivered needed capabilities that will enhance the warfighter’s ability to accomplish their missions.”

The Coyote Block III air vehicle is the baseline for numerous follow-on activities and programmes within the US Navy, Air Force and Army. The autonomy module transitioned to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Vanguard Programme, Golden Horde, and will transition to the Marine Corps Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vehicle Programme of Record and Mitre’s Simulation Experiments along with several Air Force and Navy spiral development programmes. The jam-resistant datalink also transitioned to the Golden Horde programme, along with several spiral development programmes.

The JCTD office provided project oversight, and Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate (AFRL/RW) provided technical management and overall technology integration. Flight tests and operational demonstrations were flown in 2018 and 2019 at the Yuma Test Proving Grounds, Arizona. In the final operational demonstration in 2020, multiple cruise missiles were pneumatically launched in a matter of minutes. The swarm of LCCM vehicles then dynamically reacted to a prioritised threat environment while conducting collaborative target identification and allocation along with synchronised attacks. The LCCM project also enabled significant improvement in understanding the relationship between communications and autonomy in collaborative vehicles.


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