Successful launch of US Army's Altius 700 drone from Black Hawk helicopter

The Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Project Management Office of the U.S. Army, in collaboration with the U.S. Special Operations Command, recently achieved a successful flight demonstration involving the inaugural launch of the Tube-Integrated Unmanned System (Altius) 700 on December 3, 2023, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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Successful launch of US Armys Altius 700 drone from Black Hawk helicopter 925 001   Successful launch of the Altius 700 from a US Black Hawk helicopter. (Picture source: US DoD)

Using a Black Hawk helicopter as the launch platform, the Altius system was meticulously developed to meet strict size, weight, and power requirements outlined in the approved May 2020 Launched Effects Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document.

The Launched Effects program is poised to provide a critical capability to the U.S. Army by fostering advanced collaboration between crewed and uncrewed systems. Its primary objective is to detect, identify, locate, and report imminent threats in contested environments. These transformative capabilities empower Corps, Division, and Joint commanders with effective and timely targeting, facilitating precision fires and effects during large-scale combat operations.

The comprehensive two-flight demonstration yielded invaluable data, confirming the Altius 700's outstanding performance across all operational phases, including launch, flight, landing, and recovery. These insights will play a crucial role in refining the system's design and operational procedures in preparation for upcoming test flights.

Looking ahead, the schedule includes the inaugural test flight of the fully integrated launched effects prototype, set to take place in early 2024. This pivotal test will assess the prototype's ability to control payloads and mission systems through the prototype Scalable Control Interface software. Subsequent testing will follow, culminating in a final operational demonstration by the end of the fiscal year 2024. This crucial step will pave the way for a rapid fielding decision regarding the launched effects prototype, scheduled for 2025.

The success of the Altius 700 drone launch from a Black Hawk helicopter by the U.S. Army represents a significant advancement in the field of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This successful demonstration opens doors to essential capabilities for the Army, strengthening collaboration between crewed and uncrewed systems to detect and neutralize threats in contested environments. The positive data obtained during this demonstration is instrumental in perfecting the system in preparation for future tests. As the Launched Effects program progresses, it promises to provide military commanders with even more effective tools for conducting large-scale combat operations with precision and success. The potential deployment of the launched effects prototype in 2025 represents a key milestone in achieving these goals, marking a significant step forward in the evolution of the U.S. Army's defense capabilities.