The US Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate is planning to conduct trials of the Textron Systems Clean Lightweight Area Weapon (CLAW) submunition launched from a Northrop Grumman RQ-5 Hunter unmanned air vehicle in a 60-month programme starting later this year.

The demonstration follows a US Congressional requirement for the trial of alternate UAV dispensed munitions in carrying out wide area anti-personnel and anti-material strikes, with the planned sole-source contract worth up to $9.9 million. The initial award is proposed to total $2.4 million.

If successful, the demonstration could lead to CLAW submunitions being adopted as a standard part weapons load for the Hunter and its replacement, the new General Atomics Aeronautical Systems International Warrior extended-range multipurpose (ERMP) UAV.

CLAW is a version of the BLU-108 anti-armour submunition, which carries four spinning Skeet warheads that use dual-mode passive infrared and active laser sensors to detect and engage armoured vehicles. CLAW retains the same four Skeet warhead configuration, but with these optimised for soft targets.

The planned Hunter demonstration follows a US Air Force UAV Battlelab demonstration of BLU-108 carriage and launch from a DRS Unmanned Technologies Sentry HP UAV at Eglin AFB, Florida, in September 2004.

For the Hunter demonstration, CLAW would be deployed using Textron’s multi-mission payload universal aerial delivery dispenser (U-ADD).

According to a US Army presolicitation notice released on 15 August, the demonstration aims to assess the feasibility of a “UAV-dispensed, gravity- dropped area weapon that leaves no unexploded ordnance on the battlefield”.

The demonstration will be sole sourced to Textron on the basis that the CLAW submunition is the only available “area weapons technology that is light enough for incorporation on both the Hunter and ERMP UAVs; is ready for incorporation on to the designated UAVs without two to three years of further development [and]…is sufficiently developed to conduct meaningful concept evaluation at this point”.

Textron displayed a U-ADD version at the Farnborough air show in mid-July fitted out for use as a UAV-launched, parachute-landed battlefield logistics. The variant would be able to carry 45-50kg (100-110lb) payloads and has an empty weight of 16kg.