There’s a certain unwritten rule that applies to military tech-related news and information made available for public consumption: if you’re hearing about it, they probably already have it. While this can’t always hold true, it’s safe to assume that any given military project is further along than the PR team lets on, and that likely applies to project Gray Wolf.
According to several sources, the ‘secretive’ project is one which U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contractors, in this case, Lockheed Martin and global security firm Northrop Grumman, are ‘reluctant to comment’ upon. But what has leaked is the ultimate goal of Gray Wolf: to develop swarming, autonomous cruise missiles with the capability to act in concert in order to more effectively penetrate anti-missile defense systems. For now, the military is setting the bar fairly low for Lockheed and NG, throwing around phrases like “science and technology demonstration effort”, and words such as “affordable” and “low cost”, implying that they are merely in the testing stage.
But remember that unwritten rule about military tech…
Assuming that the contractors do eventually reach the goal for which they were contracted at a rate of $110 million apiece, we have some idea of what to expect. According to Aviation Week, the autonomous capabilities of the missiles will have the underlying goal of providing “enhanced navigation, survivability and attack of particular targets.”
This will mean that the missiles will be able to communicate rapidly and independent of human control while ultimately striking their targets from long-range. As the experimental jargon being tossed out by the military implies, these coordinated autonomous cruise missiles would, to our knowledge, be the first of their kind.
It has been speculated by those with military knowledge that such missiles would most likely be deployed from Air Force bombers, though the Motley Fool, via Aviation Week, adds that ‘other potential platforms for deploying Gray Wolf might include a yet-to-be-designed “arsenal plane” (also colloquially known as a “bomb truck”), an un-stealthy but heavily armed missile carrier whose sole purpose would be to shoot at targets detected by F-35 fighter jets operating in full stealth mode.’
The cost per missile is estimated at $1 million, and the delivery date is loosely estimated between late 2022 and 2024. For those who enjoy the convergence of robotics, increasingly autonomous tech, and military weaponry, this is one project to which they will stay tuned.