US unmanned systems developer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced it has integrated the Legion pod onto an Avenger remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) for a recent flight test.
The Lockheed Martin-developed pod offers infrared search and track capabilities for detecting and tracking other aircraft at extended ranges.
GA-ASI said it took less than three months for the Legion pod integration to move from concept to flight. The 90-minute captive-carry flight test verified mechanical interfaces and aerodynamics safety of flight for the aircraft.
The pod’s first flight on an unmanned system took place after it previously guided the first launch of an AIM-9X missile, while integrated onto an F-15C Eagle in July last year.
Using the Legion Pod and its IRST capabilities allows a pilot to have another sensor that integrates with the aircraft and builds a more complete picture of the battlespace. Because of its use of infrared, it provides the ability to identify, track and shoot enemy aircraft in a radar jamming environment to include stealth aircraft that a traditional radar may not see.
“Our flight demonstration revealed the quick reaction capabilities of the Avenger RPA,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Strategic Development J.R. Reid. “From software and hardware architecture implementation to sensor integration, the Avenger is a great platform for delivering critical capabilities.”
GA-ASI said it plans additional follow-on flights with the pod in 2021.
“The successful integration of Legion pod on the Avenger RPA is a testament to the flexibility of the Legion pod system from a fighter aircraft to an unmanned aircraft, which means Legion pod has proven its capabilities can assist our warfighter and keep them ahead of threats,” said Kenen Nelson, director of Fixed Wing Sensor Programs at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control. “We are excited to see how our IRST21 systems will be integrated on other unmanned platforms.”