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.