FORT SILL, Okla., -- For the third iteration, the AUDS (anti-unmanned aerial vehicle defense system) has returned to Fort Sill, Oct. 30, for the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX). In the last few MFIX events, the AUDS, which works to detect, track, identify and defeat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has evolved from its design as a simple focused-energy weapon. Since then, the AUDs has progressed to a non-lethal/lethal system by pairing its focused energy to a 30 mm chain gun.
At MFIX 2018, the AUDS has evolved again, this time developing a passive detection program.
"Why is that important? Because most systems here have radars and jammers that are always emitting," said Col. (retired) Robert Menti, the business development director for Northrop Grumman's innovation systems. "We have a passive detection capability so that we don't have to have any radars turned on (…) so that we can detect rogues passively and the enemy can't see us."
Once the operator gets a passive detection, the commander can decide whether to jam the UAV, shoot it with a gun, or pass the video information on as intelligence. With all these capabilities, the improved AUDS provides a full-spectrum response capability for the commander, at the same time reducing its signature to the enemy, said Menti.
"It helps us operate on the move because with the passive capability we don't have to have the antenna mask erected so we can stay in a stowed configuration and continue to maneuver with the commanders," he said.
In addition to a passive detection system, the AUDS is experimenting with an advanced ammunition suite for proximity fuzed ammunition. Proximity fuzed ammunition, when linked with sensors, allows the user to destroy the UAV in flight from the ground station. The ammunition has a small radar in the front of it so that as it gets close to the UAV, it senses the object is near and detonates.
"Kind of like a skeet round when you're shooting skeet,' said Menti about the spread of the round. "It's the same idea. It's a pretty complex thing to do."
The ammunition has 50 percent more high explosive capability than a traditional M789 (a standard round used in Apache helicopters) as well as having a tracing function so the user can see where the rounds are going when fired, said Menti.
The goal of the AUDS team at MFIX is to demonstrate the ability to have a fully integrated kill chain from detection to defeat and to provide a full spectrum, lethal and non-lethal capability that is fully sharing information on the network from our sensors. They hope to show how the system is a single integrated piece.
"We want to get the lethal and non-lethal capabilities mated together and integrated so the commanders can have a full spectrum solution so they can pick what they need," said Menti. "What we don't want is a commander being forced to have different 15 systems in a (tactical operations center) and then having to fight through that internal friction trying to figure out the best way to service the target. We want to have that in an integrated platform so he, or she, can scale up based on what is going on."
Currently the systems in theater are non-lethal, however the AUDS team wants to show the benefits of linking the two types of systems together.
"As the unmanned systems, unmanned air, ground, surface and underwater, get more and more sophisticated, more autonomous, and smarter, jamming is becoming less and less effective," said Menti. "You're going to have to have a lethal capability but it has to be a layered capability because you're going to want to be able to do it at range, with missiles and then a gun and a laser -- it has to be a layered of solution. There is no silver bullet in this fight."