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SOURCE: General Atomics

 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully demonstrated an inflight release of its Advanced Air-Launched Effects (A2LE) platform, releasing an A2LE from the internal weapons bay of a GA-ASI MQ-20 Avenger® Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The demonstration took place on Nov. 28, 2023, over Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, capping a manufacturing, structural test, and flight demonstration.

GA-ASI’s design and engineering team partnered with Divergent Technologies, Inc. for the A2LE vehicle design and build, matching GA-ASI’s aircraft design expertise with the Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS™) to support rapid, low-cost manufacturing of the demonstration vehicle.

“This demonstration was a crucial first step in demonstrating GA-ASI’s ability to rapidly develop, manufacture, and test a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) in a controlled, low-risk approach,” said Mike Atwood, vice president of Advanced Programs at GA-ASI. “A2LE demonstrates the coupling of GA-ASI’s pedigreed aircraft design capabilities with Divergent’s DAPS, paving the way for continued maturation of affordable, modular SUAS platforms that can be tailored to meet warfighter needs at a fraction of the cost and lead time of currently fielded systems.”

The demonstration vehicle airframe was 100 percent additively manufactured and was designed to meet the captive carriage and ejection loads of the jet-powered aircraft with internal weapons bays. The topology-optimized AM structure was validated via proof and pit ejection testing prior to the flight demonstration. The demonstration highlighted the design efficiencies that can be realized when AM is incorporated early in the design process and throughout the vehicle. It was also a key step in validating the AM process and material properties for incorporation in future systems to be employed by both manned and unmanned platforms.

GA-ASI’s A2LE platform builds on its extensive experience in developing SUAS. It provides a low-risk, low-cost, tailorable solution that bring affordable mass to the warfighter, with modular payload provisions to meet the requirements of current and future mission objectives. A network of A2LEs could create a persistent, expansive grid for surveillance, attack, enemy air defense suppression, or communication pathways, supporting and elevating capabilities of current and future manned or unmanned platforms.