The U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill., wants industry technology ideas to improve protection for fixed wing transports against small drones weighing up to 55 pounds.

“AMC is conducting an analysis to evaluate potential C-sUAS [counter small unmanned aircraft systems] candidate solutions for integration onboard AMC fixed-wing airborne platforms,” the command said in a June 21 business notice. “The purpose is to enhance aircrew situational awareness of sUAS operating in proximity to the aircraft and improve aircraft safety of flight in response to sUAS threats or hazards. The scope of this request includes the functional ability to detect, track, and identify sUAS (passive and/or active detection methods); and/or defeat sUAS threats or hazards (kinetic and/or non-kinetic means).”

“Capability against Group 1 and 2 UAS are of primary interest, with an objective capability for Group 3 UAS,” AMC said. “Of primary interest is providing on-aircraft C-sUAS capability during critical phases of fixed-wing flight operations below 16,000 feet, with an objective capability for aircraft ground operations (taxi, parked with power on the aircraft, etc.).”

Last summer, Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio said that the Air Force Security Forces Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas would establish a C-sUAS Red Team to evaluate, test and train C-sUAS personnel (Defense Daily, July 24, 2023).

Air Force leaders have said that future operations may require ad hoc airfields without established air defense shields.

AMC “is interested in adding an aircraft-centric defense capability to protect aircraft when operating outside the airbase defense concept,” AMC said on June 21. “This aircraft-centric defense concept is intended to defend individual aircraft when operating at locations not having established airbase defense systems.”

“sUAS may be encountered everywhere, and the likelihood of encounter is increasing with the rapid development of small, inexpensive drones,” the command said. “AMC is concerned with both individual drone operations, as well as drone swarms. During flight operations, areas of most concern are on approach and landing (below 10,000 feet) and takeoff and climb (up to 10,000 feet). These are the more critical phases of flight where maneuverability is extremely limited. Additionally, AMC aircraft frequently conduct flight operations below 16,000 feet in the air littoral which is within the ceiling of many Group 2 drones.”

“Due to limited maneuverability, the system will need to be able to defeat the UAS to reduce hazards to the aircraft,” AMC said. “An onboard drone detection system that alerts aircrew to the presence of drones and provide drone location and numbers is a desired capability to enhance flight safety [and] a capability with similar functionality as a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS) to visually display drone locations to allow aircrew to avoid the threat. Additionally, an onboard counter drone capability which could mitigate hazards to flight operations is highly desired. Since crews are task-saturated during these flight profiles, the system should require very minimal crew interaction to detect and defeat the threat/hazard UAS.”