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DUBAI: Textron-Thales mini-bomb wrapping up flight test campaign

Textron Systems and Thales expect to complete testing of their Fury miniature munition in the first quarter of 2016, and are hopeful they can seal the USA or UK as a launch customer.

The companies are self-funding the development of the 6kg (13lb) glide weapon - which is on display at the Textron Systems stand at Dubai - which uses semi-active-laser and GPS guidance to strike within 1m (3ft) of a target following launch from an unmanned or manned aircraft.

Export sales will be subject to approval by the US government, but company executives don’t foresee any unusual regulatory barriers for the nation's partners and allies.

“We’re doing final flight testing to prove end-to-end weapon functionality,” says Brian Sinkiewicz, Textron Systems senior vice-president and general manager for weapons and sensors. “Q1 next year is our target to have an end-to-end, proven system that we could begin talking to customers about for a procurement.”

Textron wants to grow its position as a weapons manufacturer, matching products from its counterparts Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.

The industry has been struggling to bring new munitions to market thanks to tight defence budgets and a preference by government to upgrade existing bombs and missiles rather than to start new programmes.

“Industry has been trying to drive new starts by bringing new systems to that table that have almost or entirely completed development,” says Sinkiewicz.

However, opportunities are beginning to emerge, with Textron securing work on the US Air Force’s next-generation general-purpose munition, GBU-X.

The company has been contracted by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s weapons division at Eglin AFB to research how air force-standard open system architecture can be incorporated into the propelled GBU-X air-to-ground munition.

Sinkiewicz says standard interfaces can reduce the “prohibitive” time and cost of aircraft integration.

Textron desxribes GBU-X is a “flexible weapon design” with interchangeable propulsion, warhead, guidance and aeroshell depending on the mission and target.

“It’s something our customers have communicated as a desired feature, so we have to pay attention to it, however, it’s not as straight-forward to do that as it sounds,” says Sinkiewicz. “It’s truly still in the R&D phase.”

The aim is to replace the 50-year-old MK-series general purpose bomb with an “affordable, modular weapons family” that can be carried internally on new-generation bomber and fighter aircraft, according to air force documents.

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