Sunday, June 20, 2021

‘World’s First’ Supersonic Combat Drone ‘Arrow’ Looks Straight Out Of A Sci-Fi Movie

A Singapore-based aerospace firm has launched a concept of what it calls the world’s first’ supersonic stealth combat drone. With its futuristic design, the UAV, ‘Arrow’, looks straight out of a sci-fi movie.

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In recent times, several countries including the US, Turkey, Israel, China, and the UK have realized the importance of military drones. Needless to say, drones would play a key role in future warfare and the countries are investing heavily in drone technology.

Drones of various shapes and sizes, including the smallest Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System to the largest 47.6-feet long Northrop Grumman RQ-4, are being used by militaries across the globe.

In addition, drones are also increasingly being used to deliver goods, provide surveillance, help in emergency responses during calamities among other tasks. However, it is the military domain where drone technology has made rapid strides. Kelley’s Arrow combat drone is one such example.

The concept of the supersonic unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has been launched in Singapore. It is capable of flying faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1).

A concept of the Arrow drone. (Image: Kelley Aerospace)

According to Ian Lim, chief executive of Kelley Aerospace, “UAVs are known for their persistence…loitering, [but] are never known for their speed. So with the Arrow supersonic UAV, you will overcome the issues of speed and reach.”

The company had launched a teaser of the drone’s concept in December last year. Kelley claims the company has already received 100 “pre-orders”.

The drone has been designed for air-to-air and air-to-surface missions and can also be deployed to carry out intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance tasks.

“Arrow is the world’s first supersonic UAV that pushes the boundary with the state-of-the-art swarm and autonomous aerial flight logic – making it a formidable UAV,” according to the company statement on Kelley Aerospace’s website.

Reports suggest the drone features a monocoque (literally single-shell) built from carbon fiber, which enables it to be lightweight enough to fly more than 2,600 Nm (4,800 km) with a maximum weight of 37,038 lbs (16,800 kg).

Kelley Aerospace has shed some light on how the Arrow drone can be used as an efficient wingman for other manned aircraft.

“The Arrow is designed to complement manned aircraft and be a force multiplier in the aerial battlefield,” the company says.

The company says that manned fighter jets can control “multiple” Arrow drones, “each with a different mission…equipment [and] weapon set”.

Kelley Aerospace says that the drone can be launched autonomously, or can be remotely controlled by two ground station controllers. Its stealth capability enables the drone to go undetected on enemy radars.

“It is designed for a reduced radar cross-section and infra-red signature. The carbon fiber and monocoque design endow the Arrow with outstanding strength and stiffness,” said the company in a statement.

According to reports, the estimated price range of the drone is between $9 million and $16 million. “(It) allows more airframes to be purchased and yet, have a multi-role supersonic UCAV to perform high-risk missions as it does not necessarily need to return home,” the company said.

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