Dynetics selected as top performer for Phase 3 of DARPA's Gremlins program



Dynetics, Inc. has been selected as the top performer for Phase 3 of DARPA’s Gremlins program.

The objective of Gremlins is to “accelerate the ability to perform aerial launch and recovery of volley quantities” of low-cost, reusable UAS. Once demonstrated and matured, this capability enables a “significant expansion of distributed architectures for airborne operations.”

The Phase 3 contract is a 21-month, $38.6 million award, and the entire program will last 43 months, totaling $64 million. 

“Dynetics is very pleased for our Gremlins offering to be selected for the Phase 3 demonstration phase. This contract award is a natural progression of our expansion into providing the Government innovative solutions to solve challenging problems, often under highly accelerated schedules,” says Mark Miller, Dynetics vice president for Missile and Aviation Systems.

“While we offer prime contractor-like capabilities in several areas, the nature of our company structure and philosophy is well-suited for programs such as Gremlins where innovation, agility and affordability are necessary for success.”

Dynetics’ offering involves deploying a “towed, stabilized capture device” below and away from the C-130 aircraft. The air vehicle docks with the device in a similar fashion to an airborne refueling operation.

Once docked and powered off, the air vehicle is raised to the C-130, where it is mechanically secured and stowed, and Dynetics says that the key technologies can be “straightforwardly adapted” to allow “under-wing recovery and bay recovery” by other cargo aircraft.

The Gremlins system is beneficial in both contested environments and low-intensity, routine operations. The ability for a single, manned aircraft to stand off from danger, yet manage multiple air vehicles equipped with sensors and other payloads, makes it especially useful for enhanced support of tactical strike, reconnaissance/surveillance and close air support missions.

“The unmanned air vehicles utilized in these future operations will carry a variety of different sensors and other payloads, working together to manage and conduct complex, highly-adaptive operations in contested environments,” says Tim Keeter, Dynetics deputy program manager and chief engineer.

“When they complete their mission, they return to airborne manned platforms to be recovered to a forward operating base where they can be quickly refurbished and put back into the fight. The potential to overwhelm an adversary continuously with multiple volleys is tremendous.”

For the Gremlins program, Dynetics pulled together a team of industry partners to leverage the “best-in-class past performance, key technologies, and capabilities” needed to successfully develop and demonstrate the Gremlins system.

The fabrication, assembly, integration, and testing of each Gremlins air vehicle is being led by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, while the precision navigation system essential to rendezvous and dock the air vehicle with the C-130 is being provided by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) - Salt Lake City group.

The turbofan engine is being provided by Williams International, the control actuation systems are being delivered by Moog, and the parachute recovery system will be produced by Airborne Systems.

The C-130 pylon and launch controller hardware will be prepared by Systima, and the flight computer will be delivered by Applied Systems Engineering, Inc.

Finally, the multi-vehicle control services will be produced by SNC/Kutta, and the C-130 aircraft and flight test support will be provided by International Air Response.