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Harpi Szpon could be the Polish-American combat drone for the F-35

WARSAW, (BM)“We see the Polish side’s willingness to partner in the development of advanced Harpi Szpon [Harpy Claw – ed.] unmanned systems,” said Jack O’Banion, vice president for strategy and customer requirements at Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs during the interactive conference, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.

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He also stressed that “it would provide Poland with the best combination of the F-35 with the supporting fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles designed to work with this type of machines and placed in the broader context of Polish defense capabilities.”

During a virtual meeting with journalists, representatives of Lockheed Martin presented the concept of a new type of strike and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle, which is to work with the F-35 multi-role aircraft, but also with new versions of the F-16 and its modifications.

As Gary North, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president for customer requirements, emphasized, the joint operation of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles will become increasingly important for cross-domain operations in the modern network-centric battlefield.

He was accompanied by Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy and customer requirements at Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs (ADP), a department of the concern better known as Skunk Works and responsible, among others, for the development of such structures as SR-71 or F-117.

He emphasized the vast experience ADP has in the field of hard-to-detect machines, but also advanced unmanned solutions such as the American MQ-170 intelligence drone. In his opinion, there is now a coincidence that gives Poland great opportunities to enter the path of rapid development of unmanned machines in cooperation with the USA.

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“The extensive technical and combat capabilities offered by this type of drones were recognized as necessary to ensure an operational advantage against a potential enemy. In June, the US announced RFI for an unmanned reconnaissance platform that could potentially replace the MQ-9 fleet. In the year, there are the Harpi Szpon and Zefir programs. The specific operational conditions of Poland also require advanced unmanned solutions. We are currently analyzing both Polish and American needs, we see their significant convergence, which in our opinion creates a special opportunity for both countries” said Jack O’Banion, the Vice President of Strategy and Customer Requirements at Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs.

Lockheed Martin assumes that the needs of the Polish and American air forces in terms of the requirements for unmanned combat systems are so similar that cooperation is possible and justified both in the research and development phase as well as in production and operation.

Such a Polish-American unmanned aerial vehicle, Harpi Szpon, is to be a stealth machine with high flight endurance, capable of waiting for manned machines in the area of ​​combat operations. Its tasks are to focus on the reconnaissance, observation, detection and indication of targets and assessment of the consequences of attacks, electronic warfare, as well as the provision and retransmission of tactical information to the F-35 and other allied air, land and sea components. The feasibility of carrying the weapons will depend on the final requirements of potential buyers.

This type of unmanned machine is to be interoperable with both the F-35 and the F-16, enabling, for example, detection and targeting of JASSM missiles, with which the Polish Hawks are already armed. In its operations, Harpi Szpon would have considerable autonomy and could be controlled both from ground stations and from manned aircraft.

The American concern is of the opinion that the new unmanned aerial vehicle may be created in cooperation with the Polish industry, but the final decision depends, among others, on on the requirements that will be formulated by the Ministry of National Defense in the Harpia Szpon program. At the moment, at the level of the US and Polish state administration, analyzes and gathering information on possible cooperation, necessary technology transfer and production possibilities in Poland are ongoing.

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As Gary North, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president for customer requirements, emphasizes, the current situation is a unique opportunity for this type of collaboration. The resulting unmanned system would be the result of joint work, and its possible export to third countries would be a unique opportunity for the Polish aviation industry, which would be involved in the production and support for the operation of unmanned systems for all users. However, this requires relatively quick and specific decisions. Many of them have to fall on the side of the Polish authorities, which poses a certain risk.

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