The US Army destroyed two of three targets employing its new classified loitering munitions or “suicide drones” during a test conducted at Edge 21. A network of manned and unmanned aircraft was first used to locate the targets and guide the drones to them.
Two out of three drones, officially called Joint Man-in-the-Loop Loitering Munitions, marked three mock targets — an air defense radar, ground control station, and a surface-to-air defense system — and destroyed them during the exercise. The third vehicle was out of position so was not fired.
A manned aircraft with the Airborne Reconnaissance and Targeting Multi-Mission Intelligence System (ARTEMIS) first helped locate the three targets before the munitions were fired. ARTEMIS features the High-Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES), which includes radar, as well as electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT) systems.
Meanwhile, an MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone deployed a smaller unmanned system in mid-air. The system is equipped with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) functions to provide additional information about the targets.
Details about the munition remain undisclosed, but The Drive reported it is ground-launched, has “a large, winged” design, and has man-in-the-loop control systems, meaning a human operator remotely controls the drone and moves it with the help of images captured by an embedded video camera until the moment of impact.
The recent Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (Edge) was conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah from May 3 to May 14.
Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team director Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen said it was expected to show the progression of sensor-to-shooter systems, as the Army looks to execute “agile and effective close joint kill chains.”
Edge 21 is part of the Army’s broader initiative Project Convergence, an army modernization effort designed to connect sensors, weapons, and communications capabilities from all of the military services — Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Space Force, as well as Special Operations Forces — into a single network.