DARPA has successfully demonstrated a counter-unmanned air system (C-UAS) multilayer defense architecture as part of its Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program. The tests, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, showcased the system’s ability to defeat unauthorized drone intrusions over military installations or operations.
The low-cost reusable drone interceptor system was developed with the aim of creating an integrated system to defeat attacks from self-guided small drones. This system is designed to protect high value convoys moving through potentially populated regions where there is a requirement to avoid using explosive defensive weapons in order to mitigate collateral damage.
The technology demonstrator successfully neutralized tactically-relevant drones using a newly-developed X-band radar that automatically senses and identifies UAS threats. The radar then pairs targets to specific interceptors through an automated decision engine tied to a command and control system, launching and guiding rotary and fixed wing interceptors with two types of drone countermeasures while on the move and without operator intervention.
The system requirements called for non-kinetic solutions that could be employed in and around civilian areas. The primary interception method shoots strong, stringy streamers from reusable interceptors, interfering with propellers and causing loss of propulsion. The focus on defeating raids with multiple threats, rather than single drone attackers, required the development of an integrated solution of sensors, autonomy, and mitigation solutions more robust than existing systems.
Gregory Avicola, MFP program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, commented: “Because we were focusing on protecting mobile assets, the program emphasized solutions with a small footprint in terms of size, weight, and power. This also allows for more affordable systems and less operators.”