The Air Force Research Laboratory plans to use an F-16 fighter jet to conduct initial demonstrations of its new Gray Wolf cruise missile, according to Lockheed Martin [LMT], one of two companies recently awarded contracts to develop the weapon.

The missile, which will use “networked, collaborative behaviors,” or swarming, to defeat integrated air defense systems, will also be designed to be compatible with F-15, F/A-18 and F-35 fighters and B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, Lockheed Martin said Dec. 27.

A U.S. Air Force F-16. Photo: Air Force.
A U.S. Air Force F-16. Photo: Air Force.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman [NOC] each received $110 million contracts in December to design, build and test prototypes of the cruise missile. According to Pentagon announcements, the contracts are for five years and seven years, respectively.

The program calls for open architectures and modular designs so that upgrades can be tested and fielded quickly. Such future improvements could include more lethal warheads or more fuel-efficient engines, said Hady Mourad, director of the advanced missiles program at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The U.S. military has shown increasing interest in swarming technology. In an October 2016 test, for example, the Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office launched a swarm of 103 Perdix micro unmanned aerial vehicles from three F/A-18 Super Hornets (Defense Daily, Jan. 9, 2017). The UAVs flew together in a straight line, a horseshoe and a circle.

In a February 2017 test, the Naval Postgraduate School pitted two swarms of small foam gliders against each other (Defense Daily, Feb. 16, 2017). The unarmed UAVs tried to maneuver behind their adversaries to simulate a dogfight-like kill.