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Vigilus scout missile concept would see UAVs with longer arms and extra eyes


July 11, 2012

The Caelus scout missile

The Caelus scout missile

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Missile systems specialist MBDA unveiled a new conceptual UAV missile system at Farnborough Airshow this week. MBDA hopes that by soon after 2030, the CVS301 Vigilus could extend the strike capabilities of unmanned UAV drones by using scout missiles in hostile territory, allowing carrier UAVs to maintain a safe distance.

The Vigilus concept is made up of a platform-agnostic launcher system, Armatus, along with two concept missiles: Caelus and Gladius - all of which would be controlled by troops on the ground. The 77-kg Armatus (170-pound) launcher would be mountable on a variety of aircraft using a standard MIL-STD-1760 interface and carry a highly-configurable missile payload up to 300 kg (660 pounds).

Though Armatus is the hub of the Vigilus system, the 100-kg (220-pound) Caelus missile is most certainly its crux. Described as a scout missile, Caelus can effectively be thought of as a remote eye for the carrier UAV, providing surveillance and targeting capability. It is designed for low-altitude flight below the cloud base, providing information in adverse weather conditions that would rule out UAV deployment.

Caelus would be powered by an electric ducted fan engine providing an approximately two-hour flight time, and could be fitted with a 1-kg (2.2-pound) warhead or deployable sensors via its built-in payload bay.

The final piece of the puzzle is the 7-kg (15-pound) Gladius missile. These would be be equipped with 1-kg (2.2-pound) fragmentation warheads and have a range of up to 30 km (18.6 miles).

Vigilus, then, is the fearsome sum of its constituent parts. Multiple Gladius missiles could be installed into an Armatus launcher along with one or two Caelus scout missiles. A UAV could launch Caelus into high-risk situations, such as thick cloud cover over hostile territory. From there it could provide information back to the UAV, enabling the launch of Gladius missiles at a great enough distance to avoid endangering the UAV, even though the UAV itself is effectively blind. Presumably Caelus is reusable, but should it run out of fuel before completing its missiion, it could then fulfill its final destiny as an additional warhead.

By using relatively small-scale warheads, it's envisaged that the Vigilus system could be deployed on the ground without need for a lengthy chain of command.

The Vigilus concept is the fruit of this year's Concept Visions program, run annually by MBDA. Concept Visions asks MBDA employees across Europe to put forward ideas and concepts for future weapon systems. Though Vigilus may not come to fruition in its current form, MBDA is already talking to its supply chain and customers about putting Vigilus' mooted capabilities into effect.

Sources: MBDA, AIN Online

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Um.... can this scout return to the mothership if it is deemed to not be necessary...

I like the idea of a cheap roving scout for a mothership UAV (with or without weapons there is method to the madness)...... why not a whole cloud of them... hey they can be charged from the single APU in the large carrier UAV, BUT Then they must be able to dock and undock as needed.... (carried internally for transport, or on pylons is fine...) imagine a cloud of these returning to 50000 feet to recharge on the mothership teat every couple of hours, extending "sphere" of influence for (say) 100 miles from 5k down to ground level... think of the data this could generate.... tracking any changes in key targets in stop motion increments....

If this is sent over the horizon, and deployed by the military, there is about 100% guarantee that they will use it, by blowing someone up, even if it is only on a surveillance mission, the fact that it has a warhead, and probably can't return to the mothership...

We all know that blowing shit up is fun.... They will guarantee that there is shit to blow up, even if the need has gone.... at least the current chain of command sort of ensures that a hellfire is only loosed if there is value in it... the predator doesn't have any skin of fits nose by carrying the missiles back to base...


So there are Surveilance and Attacking UAVs but when will we the first Fighting UAVs focused on cleaning the air from those missilecarrying and surveilance UAVs? I's just a natural step and they could be made to pull some wicked Gs.

Conny Söre
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