Military Embedded Systems

Ukraine will operate Northrop Grumman M-ACE C-UAS


May 08, 2023

Flavia Camargos Pereira

Military Embedded Systems

M-ACE image courtesy Northrop Grumman.

SOF WEEK 2023 -- TAMPA, Fla. Northrop Grumman is currently showcasing some of its cannons and ammunition at the SOF Week exhibition in Tampa, Florida, including its counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) that features airbursting ammunition and proximity-fuzed ammunition when needed to defeat Classes I and II UASs.

Protecting soldiers, equipment, and infrastructure from attacks of Russian UASs has been a growing concern for Ukraine. So far, Kyiv has received and deployed multiple C-UAS solutions from various countries. Future packages shipped by the U.S. government will include Northrop Grumman’s Mobile, Acquisition, Cueing and Effector System (M-ACE) and its gun truck.

Although those capabilities have been through several trials with U.S. military branches, this will be their first operational deployment. Rob Menti, air defense strategy, Northrop Grumman explains that M-ACE is a "developmental solution optimized to engage small UAS and provide multidomain force protection." Once deployed with the gun truck, it can identify, track and defeat UASs.

"We have had a lot of interest, a lot of tests and demos, and a lot of people inquiring and interested in buying those. We do expect that, once we are in the field, it will leverage the interest even more than it already has," Menti states. 

M-ACE -- a modular, on-the-move C-UAS solution that can fit onto a variety of vehicle platforms -- uses an open architecture software system that works with industry protocols and can be integrated with different types of sensors and cameras.

The system uses machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly identify the UAS based on known operating frequencies and external signatures. It continually adds identifying factors to its database of both threatening and known friendly UAVs operating in the area so that rapid IFF can be made.

The gun truck is primarily armed with an M230 Link Fed 30 mm weapon system and proximity ammunition. It can operate as part of a networked solution for C2, as well as with the M-ACE systems C2 capability.

Once the M-ACE platform identifies the UAS, it shares the exact target location with the gun truck; used together, the C-UAS capabilities accurately identify, track and defeat moving unmanned systems.

As far as highlighting the systems at SOF Week, Menti notes: "Our Special Operations Command folks are very interested in the agnostic gun truck capability and the multimission weapon system. Those capabilities fit in their mission set of being small, lightweight, and easily deployable." He stresses that they also match Kyiv’s requirements as the Ukrainian conflict is a very complex situation that leverages unmanned systems and long-range precision fires.

"Over the last 14 months, a very, very complex and lethal unmanned system fight has been happening. In the eastern part of the country, in Donbas, both sides really can't maneuver too well, and it has become a war of attrition," he notes.

Northrop Grumman expects M-ACE to be operational before the end of the year. To date, the U.S. government has shipped to Kyiv multiple C-UAS systems and equipment from various suppliers. It includes nine C-UAS solutions mounted on ground vehicles and 10 mobile C-UAS laser-guided rocket systems.

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