General Dynamics Land Systems' TRX is a modular unmanned ground vehicle design, and versions of it will be headed to an Army experiment next year.
By Joseph Trevithick October 14, 2021
General Dynamics Land Systems' showcased a mockup of its TRX tracked unmanned ground vehicle configured as a unique mobile launch platform for 50 AeroVironment Switchblade loitering munitions, commonly referred to as "suicide drones," earlier this week. This followed news that the Army now plans to test versions of the TRX, which stands for Tracked Robot 10-Ton, alongside Howe & Howe Technologies' Ripsaw M5 unmanned mini-tank and Pratt Miller and QinetiQ's Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle during an experimental exercise next year.
The loitering munition-armed TRX concept was on display at the Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA) main annual conference in Washington, D.C., which opened on Oct. 11 and wrapped up yesterday. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) had first unveiled TRX at the AUSA gathering last year. This builds off the company's formal partnership with AeroVironment, which it first announced in 2018.
A TRX tracked unmanned ground vehicle configured to launch dozens of AeroVironment Switchblade 300 and 600 loitering munitions. This version of the design also has a tethered quadcopter-type drone
The TRX on display at AUSA this year has two banks of 13 launch tubes for Switchblade 600 drones, as well as two other arrays, each with 12 tubes capable of launching smaller Switchblade 300s. It also has a tethered quadcopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle that is stowed internally when not in use.
Loitering Missiles Systems at #AUSA2021. Stop by their booth (6027) and learn how this integration extends the RSTA and precision strike lethality range of tactical ground units. pic.twitter.com/lKo2bhNtid
This configuration presents a significant combination of reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as organic strike capabilities, in a relatively small and mobile package that can be used in very high-risk environments. What makes loitering munitions such as the Switchblades different from more traditional drones and missiles is that they can scout ahead and otherwise search for potential targets of interest and then initiate strikes on them directly, if desired.
AeroVironment's Switchblade family, like many loitering munitions, have an operator-in-the-loop control arrangement, where the user "sees" what the drone does via the feeds from the electro-optical and infrared cameras in its nose through the course of its flight. While the drones can be directed to fly to specific locations and automatically track designated targets, or even hit selected coordinates, the operator can also make fine adjustments to their course manually. This increases the accuracy of the system and also offers an added margin of safety, offering the user the option of aborting a strike should circumstances change, such as innocent bystanders suddenly appearing in the target area.
AeroVironment has talked about improving the autonomous capabilities in the future, including potentially enabling groups of them to work cooperatively together as a networked swarm. You can read more about the Switchblade family, as well as the company's other projects, in this past War Zone feature.
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